|Posted on September 24, 2021 at 11:55 PM|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Syracuse Orange, for the first time ever, had Garrett Shrader (sophomore transfer) trot out onto the field to start the game.
Shrader, coming from Mississippi State, had come in during Syracuse’s previous games at Ohio and at home versus Albany, but this marks his inaugural time donning the Orange as the lead signal caller.
On the very first play of the game, after the Orange had won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball first for the second contest in a row, Shrader aired out but his receiver did not get under it in time, with the drive ending in a punt.
Redshirt-junior quarterback Malik Willis, with a mountain of National Football League (NFL) scouts in the building, eluded multiple Syracuse defenders on Liberty’s opening drive, but the ball eluded the uprights for Liberty redshirt-senior kicker Alex Barbir, going wide left, leaving the Flames without a point.
Liberty would start this drive with three rushing attempts, and have seven rushes to one pass, showing their trust in Willis as well as sophomore running back Shedro Louis, both of whom excelled versus Syracuse last season in a 38-21 win in the Dome.
The Orange responded with their own seven-rush, one-pass drive, also attempting a field goal at the end, and just like the Flames, the kick was no good, this by redshirt-junior kicker Andre Szmyt from 52 yards away.
Liberty would start their second possession of the match-up with a trick play that saw redshirt-freshman wide receiver CJ Daniels complete a pass to Willis for a 13-yard gain on the first play of the drive.
However, the Flames would punt the ball away once again after the next three plays failed to accumulate the 10 yards needed for a new set of downs.
Syracuse would go 3-for-4 in passing and run the ball five times to close out the first quarter with a score of 0-0.
They would continue this drive, their third of the game, right into the end zone, running the ball four times to open the second quarter; second-year freshman running back Sean Tucker would run the ball the first two times for a total of 12 yards, and Shrader would gather the final six needed for the score, five yards on the first attempt and a leap to gain the lone yard necessary to be the first on the board. At the 13:40 mark, the Orange led the Flames 7-0.
The Flames would remain scoreless on their next drive, courtesy of sophomore linebacker Mikel Jones who went low and took Willis down for a three-yard loss on third down, resulting in the Flames’ third-straight punt.
Syracuse would run the ball four-straight times on their next possession, with sophomore left tackle Matt Bergeron and redshirt-sophomore left guard Chris Bleich opening up a hole for Tucker who ran through it and then turned on the jets to a 27-yard touchdown run, his seventh touchdown run of the season and first of the game, moving the Orange out to a 14-0 lead at the 9:51 mark of the second quarter.
Liberty’s next drive would end on the seventh play when senior defensive end Kingsley Jonathan and sophomore Geoff Cantin-Arku would work together to sack Willis for a 14-yard loss, making it 4th-&-24 and a punting situation for the Flames.
Syracuse’s next drive would be a quick three-and-out that Liberty would respond to with their first score of the contest. The Flames would run the ball five times on this drive and Willis would complete all three of his pass attempts, with the second-to-last being a 25-yard gain from Willis to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Noah Frith to the Orange seven-yard line. Willis would find Louis for the seven yards needed, on a pass play that cut the Syracuse lead in half at 14-7 with 1:33 to go before halftime.
Louis scored twice last season against the Orange in the Dome, both on the ground, so this served as his first receiving touchdown versus Syracuse.
Orange senior defensive end Cody Roscoe would gain his first sack of the game on the Flames’ second play of their opening second-half drive, aiding the Orange in forcing a punt by the Flames to start the third quarter; this sack moved Roscoe to 4.5 on the season.
Syracuse’s first drive of the second half would see the Orange enter the end zone for the third time in the contest, and this, like the other two before, came on the board. Shrader ran in on the quarterback keeper from 10 yards out, eluding a defender and remaining upright as he fought to and crossed the goal-line for his second rushing touchdown of the night, extending the Orange back out to a 14-point advantage, 21-7, at the 9:46 mark of the third quarter.
On Liberty’s second drive of the third quarter, Syracuse second-year freshman linebacker Marlowe Wax, Jr., pressured the quarterback on not one but two occasions, forcing another punt by the Flames.
The Orange, however, would come up empty-handed on the subsequent drive, punting the ball back on a three-and-out.
After starting the drive 2-for-2 in the pass game, the Flames ran five-straight times, taking time off the clock and gaining 22 yards on the ground to the Orange 23-yard line.
With Syracuse seeing the run time and time again, Willis went back to the pass, sending the ball down the sideline to Daniels for a 23-yard score.
The officials reviewed the play to see if Daniels had gone out-of-bounds on his route before catching the ball, and they upheld their initial call of a touchdown, closing the gap to a one-score game once again, 21-14 Orange, with 2:57 to go in the third.
Syracuse’s following drive would end in their second-consecutive three-and-out.
With 45 minutes in the books, the Orange went into the final quarter ahead 21-14.
For the second time in a row, Liberty responded to a Syracuse three-and-out with a touchdown, this one coming just 29 seconds into the fourth quarter, with Willis airing out to redshirt-freshman wide receiver Demario Douglas for a 33-yard touchdown as Douglas got past his defender and under the ball down the right sideline.
Louis began this drive with a 30-yard carry that brought the Flames from their own 25 to the Orange 45-yard line.
Syracuse’s next drive would conclude with Shrader being sacked by redshirt-freshman nose guard Kendy Charles and freshman linebacker Ahmad Walker for a seven-yard loss after Tucker missed the block, resulting in a punt on 4th-&-18.
On the following drive by Liberty, Douglas was ruled to have caught a touchdown pass, but officials reviewed it and determined he was out-of-bounds before reeling in the ball, negating the score.
Syracuse would negate another score with their defense when Liberty decided to go for it on 4th-&-2 from the Syracuse two-yard line. Willis kept the ball and was gobbled up by the Orange defense for a loss of a yard, and a loss of downs, giving the ball to the Orange on their own three-yard line with the game tied at 21 just inside eight minutes to play. Kingsley Jonathan was credited with the stop.
The Orange had wide receivers Courtney Jackson (redshirt-freshman) and Taj Harris (junior) obtain the ball in the backfield, gaining a combined four yards after Tucker went down on the ground on his two-yard carry, leaving Syracuse with another three-and-out.
But the Syracuse defense rose to the challenge as Roscoe forced Willis to fumble and Jones recovered the ball on the 30-yard line of Liberty.
The Orange would run the ball six-straight times, with Shrader gaining eight yards on the final carry that moved Syracuse to the Liberty 17-yard line.
Orange head coach Dino Babers then ran the clock down to one second, bringing Szmyt out on 4th-&-7 for a 35-yard field goal attempt.
Szmyt boots it through the uprights for a final-second victory for the Orange, who end non-conference play at 3-1, while handing the Flames their first loss of the season, moving them to 3-1.
This is Szmyt’s 61st career field goal make, extending his total as the all-time leader at Syracuse.
Shrader is now 1-0 as a starter at Syracuse, passing for 77 yards (6-for-15) and rushing for 53 yards. He had 3.3 yards per carry, taking his 16 carriers those 53 yards, with two scores on the ground. Shrader also ended the day without an interception.
Tucker ran the ball 32 times for a total of 169 yards (5.3 yards per carry), including one touchdown.
For the third time in the first four games of this 2021 campaign, the Orange ran for at least 200 yards as a team, gaining 228 yards on 53 carries (4.3 yards per carry).
After allowing 338 yards, seven yards per carry, and four rushing touchdowns a season ago to Liberty, Syracuse clapped back a year later by holding Liberty under 200 yards rushing (150) and lowered their yards per carry from seven to 3.7, while not allowing a single rushing touchdown this time around. Also worth noting is that the Orange gave up those 150 yards on 41 attempts, whereas on seven more attempts last season, the Orange allowed 338 yards on 48 attempts by the Flames.
With the victory, Syracuse closes out non-conference play at 3-1, while at the same time handing Liberty their first loss of the season (3-1).