|Posted on November 11, 2017 at 7:00 PM|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Syracuse Orange and Wake Forest Demon Deacons both entered into the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York, with postseason hopes and control of their own destinies. Wake Forest, at 5-4, would become bowl eligible with a win over Syracuse, while Syracuse would get one step closer to bowl eligibility with a victory over Wake Forest, which would be their fifth victory of the season.
Starting quarterback, junior Eric Dungey, was questionable on the injury report going into the game, and the question mark followed the Orange into the match-up when backup quarterback, senior Zack Mahoney, trotted out onto the field to lead the offense to start the game.
Mahoney got the Orange within field-goal position, completing three of his first five pass attempts, but senior placekicker Cole Murphy missed from 45 yards away.
The Demon Deacons responded by scoring on their first possession of the contest, which started on their own 27-yard line after the miss by Mahoney. Wake Forest senior quarterback John Wolford completed three of his first four passes and then called his own number from three yards away for the touchdown on the quarterback keeper to make it 7-0 Wake Forest four minutes and 30 seconds into the contest.
Mahoney went 2-for-3 on Syracuse's second drive before handing the ball to junior running back Dontae Strickland for three straight rushing attempts, the third in which he took 43 yards to paydirt to tie the game at 7-7 less than two minutes later.
Wake Forest continued the seesaw motif, scoring on the following drive to take the lead back on a rush by junior running back Matt Colburn, this one, like Wolford's run, was from three yards out. It took a hair over three minutes for the Demon Deacons to score this touchdown to go ahead 14-7 after Wolford went 3-for-3 in his pass attempts and the team ran six times, including Colburn's touchdown and his 15-yard run that got the Demon Deacons to the 18-yard line of the Orange with a new set of downs.
Syracuse sophomore running Moe Neal would get the rock for three runs to start the team's third drive of the game, taking one of them through the middle and out into the open field for a 47-yard gain. Mahoney would take advantage of the success on the ground by faking the handoff and passing overtop to junior tight end Ravian Pierce for a 19-yard score, which tied the game again, this time at 14-14 with 3:52 left in the first quarter.
Wake Forest took the challenge and responded once again, scoring their third touchdown in three tries on a drive where the Demon Deacons began with four rushes, including three from Wolford, and then Wolford fed redshirt-senior tight end Cam Serigne through the middle and Serigne took off for a 31-yard receive-and-run play to make it 21-14 less than two minutes after Syracuse's previous score.
At the end of the first quarter, both offenses had combined for 35 points and 452 yards.
The Orange had the ball with eight seconds remaining in the first quarter after forcing the Demon Deacons to punt for the first time after allowing touchdowns on each of their first three drives.
Mahoney would go 3-for-4 on this drive that carried over into the second quarter, including a 26-yard completion to senior wide receiver Erv Philips which brought the Orange to the Demon Deacons' 14-yard line. Wake Forest would be flagged for pass interference, placing Syracuse at the Wake Forest two-yard line.
Enter the bruiser in the backfield for the Orange from there, as true freshman tight end/fullback Chris Elmore came in for two runs straight ahead, gaining a yard on each attempt, the second being the yard that crossed the Orange over the goal-line to tie it once again, at 21-21 less than three minutes into the second quarter (12:08 before half).
Syracuse's defense would force Wake Forest to punt for a second time, after a quick three-and-out, and the Orange offense would move down the field once again thanks to Mahoney going 4-for-5, including a 30-yard touchdown pass play to senior wide receiver Steve Ishmael. On the touchdown play, Ishmael was clearly interfered with but somehow caught the ball, giving the Orange their first advantage of the game, at 28-21, with 9:05 left before half, giving Syracuse two touchdowns just over three minutes apart from each other in the second quarter.
After giving up three touchdowns on the Demon Deacons' first three drives of the game, the Orange defense forced their third punt in a row, and just as they did on the last two punts forced, Syracuse capitalized off of it, this time on Murphy's first made field goal of the game. Murphy booted it through the uprights from 30 yards away to make it 31-21 Syracuse with 3:03 before the break.
Wake Forest and Syracuse would trade punts on their next drives, but on Syracuse's punt with 43 seconds before halftime, two Wake Forest players would collide and the ball was free. The Orange recovered it and the officials ruled that the Demon Deacons' indeed contacted the ball, mkaing it a free ball for the taking.
Just as in the first quarter, Pierce scored off of a run fake by Mahoney as Mahoney threw to the middle of the end zone to find Pierce who fell down on the ground and reeled in the ball for an 18-yard touchdown to move the Orange ahead 38-21 with 16 seconds left in the first half.
But Wake Forest would not lay down going into the half.
Wolford linked up with junior wide receiver Tabari Hines for a 44-yard pass play to Syracuse's 31-yard line and Colburn would run for eight more yards and slide at the middle of the field, followed by a Wake Forest timeout with two seconds remaining. The play by Colburn was perfect: Get the yards and then slide down with time on the clock. With two seconds before halftime redshirt-senior placekicker Mike Weaver would connect on his first field goal of the game, this from 41 yards away, to bring Syracuse's lead to 38-24 at half.
In the first half alone, both teams combined for 762 total yards of offense and 72 points. The Orange amounted 425 yards on 53 plays, while the Demon Deacons gathered 337 yards on 44 plays.
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) adversaries traded field goals to open the second half, Weaver from 43 yards out, followed by Murphy from 47 yards away, with Syracuse ahead 41-27 approximately six minutes into the third quarter.
Wake Forest was in need of a spark, and they got it when Serigne caught a pass and went forward for a 16-yard gain to the Syracuse nine-yard line and then Wolford got the nine yards remaining on a quarterback keeper for his second rushing touchdown of the game, bringing Wake Forest within striking distance, down 41-34, with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter.
The Orange elected to run a quarterback keeper with Mahoney on 3rd-&-8 that went no where and they punted the ball away.
On the ensuing drive by the Demon Deacons, they took the ball from their own 37-yard line into the Orange end zone, with the scoring play a 19-yard hookup between Wolford and Serigne where Serigne was wide open heading to the middle of the end zone, waiting for the ball.
An extra point to follow would tie the game at 41, but nothing, including an extra point, is ever guaranteed.
Syracuse redshirt-junior defensive tackle Chris Slayton blocked the extra-point attempt and sophomore cornerback Scoop Bradshaw, well, scooped up the ball and took off. At one point, it appeared like Wake Forest might catch up, but Bradshaw looked forward and kept his focus on the end zone, reaching it for a two-point addition to Syracuse's score, turning what might have been a 41-41 tie into a 43-40 lead.
However, the Demon Deacons would score on their following drive when Wolford, on 4th-&-1, was given a wide open gap to run in, and he took the ball 29 yards into the Orange end zone to give the Demon Deacons their first lead since 21-14, now ahead 47-43 with 11:48 to play.
Down by four, Syracuse would get to the Wake Forest 35, but Mahoney would follow by throwing his first interception of the game and first of the season, when his timing was not down with his receiver and senior linebacker Jaboree Williams would jump the route, returning the interception to the Syracuse 20-yard line.
Despite being penalized to a 1st-&-20 situation, the Demon Deacons would end their drive in the Orange end zone on Serigne's third touchdown grab of the day, this one a six-yard score. This marked two straight drives where Wake Forest was in a 1st-&-20 situation and found a way to fight back and score a touchdown. With 7:17 remaining in the game, the Demon Deacons went ahead 54-43.
The Orange would continue to sputter on offense late and redshirt-freshman quarterback Rex Culpepper would come in for Mahoney on a fourth-down try that ended in an incomplete pass, resulting in the Orange giving up the ball at their own 20-yard line. Weaver helped Wake Forest capitalize on this turnover on downs when he connected from 30 yards out to bring the lead to 57-43 Wake Forest with 4:58 to go.
Wake Forest's 14-point lead accurately depicted how far Syracuse had fallen in the second half after once being up themselves by 14, 41-27, in the third quarter.
Syracuse made it down the field and close to the Wake Forest redzone, but all of their progress was negated when Mahoney threw his second interception of the game, this one to redshirt-sophomore linebacker Justin Strnad with about four minutes to play.
The Demon Deacons would do what they had done throughout the game, and that is capitalize off of the blunders of the Orange, when Colburn ran up the middle for a 76-yard touchdown where he was on a zipline of his own with no one going to catch him.
After Culpepper and the Orange failed to gain a first down on a fourth-down try, the Demon Deacons got in victory formation with 33 seconds to play, winning the game 64-43 to become bowl eligible at 6-4.
Syracuse falls to 4-6 with the loss, meaning that they have to defeat the Louisville Cardinals on the road on Saturday, November 18, and then the Boston College Eagles at home on Saturday, November 25, to get to 6-6 and make themselves eligible for the bowl season.
The Orange let a 17-point lead turn into a 21-point loss, a 38-point swing in the game.
Syracuse allowed 734 yards of total offense to Wake Forest, while Wake Forest gave up 621 yards of total offense to Syracuse, a combined total of 1,355 yards of offense by the ACC foes in this game.
The Demon Deacons fell behind the Orange in passing yards, with 80 less, but accumulated almost 200 more yards than the Orange on the ground, thanks to Wolford's 136 and Colburn's 237 rushing yards allowed by the Orange defense.
What once looked like a seesaw that Syracuse took control of turned into an overwhelming second half of scoring by Wake Forest, who scored 40 points to Syracuse's five in the final two quarters of play.