SU entered this Saturday seeking its first regular-season win over a ranked team since beating NC State in 2018. However, it was not to be. The Orange pushed Wake Forest all the way to overtime, but fell 40-37 on a walk-off 22-yard touchdown catch from Deacs wideout A.T. Perry.
First, let’s go over the positives in this game. Since being named the starter prior to the Liberty game, quarterback Garrett Shrader has improved with every outing. Shrader finished 15 of 27 passing for 160 yards and two scores, while rushing an incredible 29 times for 178 yards and a score. Both the carries and the yardage marks led the team, and the Mississippi State transfer showed off his toughness all day long. Shrader’s running helped the Orange build leads of 14-3 and 21-10 in the first half.
Shrader’s efforts only barely overshadowed Sean Tucker, whose outstanding second season in Orange continued. 26 carries for 153 yards and three total touchdowns later, it’s clear Tucker is Syracuse’s most important player. His third touchdown – a 28-yard catch-and-scamper with just 0:28 left in the game – tied things up and sent it to overtime.
However, that’s where the positives mostly end for Syracuse. Defensive coordinator Tony White’s defense faltered, particularly in the second half. Wake’s run game never quite got going, but Deacs quarterback Sam Hartman did. Hartman finished 19 of 32 passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns, throwing efficiently and accurately to help Wake score in every quarter of the game.
The position group to blame for the poor play is likely the secondary. Wake Forest has a talented passing offense, but cornerback Garrett Williams had an uncharacteristically poor day and was beaten on a 69-yard third quarter Wake touchdown. Sophomore Jason Simmons wasn’t much better and had a difficult time covering Jaquarii Roberson (9 catches, 135 yards) all day long.
The Turning Point
One particular throw Hartman made is being scrutinized as the de facto turning point of the game. If you’re Syracuse, it’s being analyzed for all the wrong reasons.
The throw in question occurred with 3:40 left in the second quarter and Syracuse up 21-10. Hartman’s 25-yard completion to Jaquarii Roberson on 3rd and 23 was a major conversion, but Wake arguably shouldn’t have even been in that position in the first place. On the previous play, Hartman had thrown incomplete on 3rd and 13, but an offensive holding penalty was accepted by Dino Babers in one of the more bizarre decisions of the season. Instead of 4th and 13 and having to stare down a 51-yard field goal, Wake got another try on 3rd and 23 and didn’t miss. Five plays after the 25-yard gain, Wake scored to make it 21-17 and the game’s momentum seemed to tangibly change.
The acceptance of the penalty was the worst choice out of a few questionable calls for Syracuse on the afternoon. Instead of an aggressive 4th down attempt, there was the 4th and 2 field goal attempt in the fourth quarter that Andre Szmyt missed. Then there was the delay of game penalty on a disorganized potential game-winning two-point conversion with under a minute to go in the game. It’s a shame that most of the analysis of a matchup comes down to questionable coaching decisions, but this was not one of Dino Babers’ better games.
Next week, the Orange take on Clemson on Friday in the Dome to try and break out of their two-game losing streak.