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Syracuse Outlasts Virginia's 2nd-Half Push, Moves to 4-0

Posted on September 23, 2022 at 10:45 PM

  Article by Dan Tortora

  The Virginia Cavaliers at Syracuse Orange match-up served as the lone Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) game under the "Friday Night Lights", and that spotlight did not disappoint in the least with sophomore wide receiver Trebor Pena returning the opening kickoff almost as far as it was kicked to him, bringing the 63-yard kick back at Virginia for a 57-yard return that started the first Syracuse drive of the game already on Virginia territory, at their 41.

  Syracuse would make the most of the shorter field by scoring in just five plays. The scoring play was even more impressive because junior quarterback Garrett Shrader did not just get into the end zone, he did it untouched on his quarterback keeper, and it came immediately after the Orange rolled backward 10 yards due to a holding penalty. This 17-yard rush forward and out right gave Syracuse a 7-0 lead at the 12:18 mark of the opening quarter.

  The Cavaliers would get into Orange territory on their first drive of the contest, but would not come up with anything after senior kicker Brendan Farrell's 51-yarder went to the right, keeping the score at 7-0 Orange at the 7:27 mark.

  On the very first play of Syracuse's second drive, which came at their 33-yard line after taking over on downs, sophomore running back Sean Tucker had an uncharacteristic happening, fumbling the ball away. To put into perspective how atypical it is for Tucker to fumble, he had one fumble in nine games in 2020 and two fumbles in 12 games in 2021 (both coming in the same game, a 41-36 win visiting the Virginia Tech Hokies). This was Syracuse's first turnover this season, coming here in the Dome in their fourth game.

  Deja vu would show itself on the very next Cavaliers' drive, as Farrell missed another field goal, this from 48 yards and going wide left instead of right, resulting in the Orange taking over at almost the exact spot of their previous possession, this at the 31 and the prior at their 33.

  Syracuse would capitalize on this drive with a 26-yard field by redshirt-senior kicker Andre Szmyt to move them ahead 10-0 with exactly one minute left on the first-quarter game clock.

  On the first play of the Cavaliers' third drive of the first quarter, senior quarterback Brennan Armstrong took to his feet and was met by redshirt-sophomore cornerback Garrett Williams who laid the hit that popped the ball free, caught the ball in mid-air, and gave possession back to the Orange on the Cavaliers' 28-yard line after a five-yard return.

  The Orange would carry the drive that followed into the second quarter, their fourth drive of the game, coming away with points for the third time in four possessions, this the second field goal in a row for Szmyt, which came from 32 yards out to extend the Orange out to a 13-0 lead with 14:15 to go in the first half.

  After going three games without a turnover to start their 2022 campaign, ahead +6 in the turnover margin, Syracuse made their second turnover of the season in the second quarter of this game when Shrader went over the middle and right to sophomore SPUR (Safety/Linebacker) Jonas Sanker who would return the ball 14 yards to the Syracuse 32-yard line, serving as Shrader's first interception of 2022.

  The Cavaliers would elect to go for it on 4th-&-3 from the Orange 25-yard line and would turn the ball over on downs for the third time in the first half, thanks to Armstrong being hurried by redshirt-junior defensive end Caleb Okechukwu and Garrett Williams breaking up the reception attempt.

  Syracuse true freshman punter Max von Marburg would get some action with the team punting the ball away for the first time in six drives.

  But, they would get the ball back less than two minutes later, with Virginia punting for the second time in the first half.

  The Orange would take advantage of this punt, with Szmyt making his third field goal in a row in the first half, this from 28 yards away, moving the Orange up to a 16-0 advantage with 1:21 before the break.

  That shut out would carry into the locker rooms here in the Dome.

  Defending Virginia on the opening drive of the second half, Syracuse sophomore ROVER (Safety/Linebacker) Justin Barron was ejected for targeting. Shortly after, on the same drive, sophomore defensive tackle Terry Lockett came off the field slowly, needing assistance, nursing an injury. That was two starters out for the Orange defense on the same drive, with a half to play in this contest versus the Cavaliers.

  On this drive against a Barron- and Lockett-less defense, the Cavaliers got their first points on a one-yard carry by graduate receiver/rusher/passer Keytaon Thompson, making it 16-7 Orange at the 9:46 mark of the third quarter.

  Six seconds later, the ball was back in the hands of Virginia after sophomore defensive end Jonathan Horton laid down a blow to Pena, forcing a fumble which sophomore free safety Donovan Johnson recovered at the Syracuse 13.

  Senior running back Perris Jones would reach the end zone on a five-yard carry on this drive at the 9:26 mark, giving the Cavaliers two scores in 20 seconds after gaining nothing in the first half. 

  However, redshirt-freshman defensive end Jatius "JT" Geer would block the extra point attempt to keep Syracuse's lead at a field goal of separation, ahead 16-13. This was the second blocked extra point in as many games by Syracuse, with the first coming in the 32-29 win over the Purdue Boilermakers a game ago, that by Garrett Williams.

  Virginia would have their own targeting penalty on Syracuse's following drive, when senior middle linebacker Nick Jackson hit Shrader in the open field and it was reviewed and upheld as leading with the crown of the helmet, leaving the Cavaliers without the "quarterback" of their defense due to his ejection.

  After being sacked for a loss of seven yards that brought up 3rd-&-18, Shrader got out of a dicey situation, sending the ball with plenty of time to redshirt-senior wide receiver Devaughn Cooper for the 18 yards needed for a new set of downs.

  Three plays later, officials ruled on the field that Shrader had thrown an interception. However, a review of the play overturned their decision, keeping the ball with Syracuse and giving Szmyt his fourth attempt of the game, which like the others, went through the uprights, this from 40 yards away to extend the Orange out to a 19-13 lead with 24 seconds remaining in the third quarter. 

  Junior punter Daniel Sparks would send it away for the fourth time in the game, and Shrader would look to keep the drive that ensued alive when he sent a shovel pass to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Courtney Jackson for a 15-yard gain and a first down.

  But officials would rule that Jackson fumbled, forced by sophomore safety Langston Long and recovered by senior BANDIT (Weakside Linebacker) Chico Bennett, Jr.

  Garrett Williams spoiled the party, however, intercepting Armstrong on Virginia's first play of the drive.

  Syracuse came away with nothing, punting the ball away for the third time in the game ahead 19-13, placing Virginia at their own 25-yard line with 9:48 to play.

  On 4th-&-4 on the Orange four-yard line, Armstrong would find junior wide receiver Lavel Davis for the score, and the following extra point would give the Cavaliers their first lead of the game, 20-19, with 5:51 remaining.

  Shrader would be sacked for a loss of six yards on 3rd-&-7, but Virginia would help keep their adversary's drive alive with a 15-yard facemask that brought a first down with it, going from the Syracuse 41 to the Virginia 44-yard line. 

  After two first downs, Shrader would hold onto the ball for an extended period of seconds, eventually leading to him being sacked for a loss of 12 yards back to the Cavaliers' 25-yard line.

  On the very next play, he would gain back the 12 yards he lost, but Syracuse was still five yards short of the first down.

  Orange Head Coach Dino Babers elected to send Szmyt out for his fifth field goal attempt of the game, and Szmyt sent this one through as well, from 31 yards out, making it 5-for-5 on the night and moving the Orange back ahead, 22-20, with 1:08 remaining.

  Redshirt-freshman linebacker Anwar Sparrow and redhsirt-senior free safety Eric Coley would break up back-to-back passes to force a final turnover on downs by the Cavaliers, and Shrader and the offense would move into victory formation as the Orange hold on to improve to 4-0 overall, 3-0 at home, and 2-0 in the ACC.

  Virginia moves to 2-2 overall, 0-2 on the road, and 0-1 in the ACC.   

Categories: Syracuse Orange Football, Atlantic Coast Conference, NCAA