Garrett Shrader was responsible for five touchdowns, including a 45-yard pass to Damien Alford with 19 seconds remaining, but Syracuse needed to survive a last-second Hail Mary attempt to escape with a 41-36 victory at Virginia Tech.
The Orange (4-4, 1-3) snapped a three-game slide by claiming their first conference win while the Hokies (3-4, 1-2 ACC) lost for the fourth time in five games. SU rolled up 550 yards in the game behind Shrader, who threw for 236 yards and added 174 more on the ground, but his pass to Alford in the waning moments was arguably his biggest play of the day.
Shrader lofted the pass downfield just before getting hit and Alford reached over a defender to pull it out of the air for the catch and eventual score.
That score came just over two minutes after Shrader connected with Courtney Jackson for his other touchdown pass, a 12-yard score that pulled the Orange within two points. Syracuse had taken a lead early in the fourth, but Virginia Tech used a field goal to go in front, then scored a touchdown on their next drive for a 36-27 lead with under six minutes remaining.
Shrader’s other three scores came on the ground, one on each of the final three quarters. Sean Tucker had the first SU touchdown of the day, cruising into the end zone from 28 yards out in the first quarter, going over 1,000 yards on the season on the play.
The Orange defense and special teams had problems on the day. The Hokies rambled for 260 yards in the game, averaging 5.9 yards for carry, but at least the Syracuse defense worked some things out as the game went on. Virginia Tech converted their first four third down attempts of the game, but were stopped on all but one of their final eight tries.
On special teams, the normally reliable Andre Szmyt struggled through a difficult stretch for SU. Szmyt had an extra point blocked late in the second quarter that could have tied the game, then put a 19-yard field goal attempt just before halftime off the upright. Trebor Pena did help out the unit with a 51-yard kickoff return to set up Jackson’s late touchdown.