Andre Szmyt booted a straightaway 35-yard field goal on the final play to nudge Syracuse (3-1) to a 24-21 home victory over Liberty (3-1) on Friday night. The win for the Orange marked the first time the team mustered back-to-back victories in nearly two calendar years.
Szmyt’s kick made Garrett Shrader’s first start at was a successful one, as the transfer quarterback scored twice for the Orange and handed off to Sean Tucker for a third rushing touchdown. While Shrader’s surprise start shares the headlines, Tucker’s workhorse effort of 32 carries for 169 yards was the key for SU.
The Orange also got a strong effort from their defensive unit, who kept the Flames’ star quarterback Mailk Willis in check with six sacks. Cody Roscoe and Mikel Jones combined for the biggest play by the Syracuse defense, as Roscoe stripped Willis of the ball for the unit’s final sack and Jones recovered at the Liberty 30 with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter.
SU opened the scoring with a pair of rushing touchdowns in the second quarter. Garrett Shrader stretched the ball into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the second quarter, then Sean Tucker capped the next Syracuse drive by breaking a 27-yard run off the left side for a score and a 14-0 lead just over five minutes into the quarter.
After Shrader’s second score, a ten-yard run where the quarterback broke a couple tackles en route to the end zone and reinstating a 14-point lead five minutes after halftime, the Orange defense smelled blood in the water, dropping Willis twice in one set of downs.
Willis exacted his revenge, though, striking back with a pair of touchdown tosses, the second one coming early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 21 a side. The Orange defense stood strong on the Flames’ next possession, though, stuffing Willis on a 4th-and-goal to preserve the tie with eight minutes remaining.
The next Liberty possession ended in the only turnover of the night and set up the winning kick from Szmyt.