Syracuse traveled down to Tallahassee seeking its first win in Doak Campbell Stadium… EVER. Unfortunately for the Orange, history reared its ugly head in the final moments. Florida State kicker Ryan Fitzgerald nailed a game-winning 34-yard field goal to propel FSU to a 33-30 win.
QB1 Garrett Shrader was electric. He tallied 150 yards in the air, while running for a team-high 137 yards on 16 carries. Add four total touchdowns to the mix and his individual play kept SU in the ballgame. His tag team partner in the backfield had himself a nice day too. Sean Tucker picked up another 100-yard rushing game on 24 carries.
That tandem did all it could in the first half. After a scoreless first quarter, Shrader broke out for a 55-yd TD rush and added a five-yard dash to give SU life in the second.
But it wasn’t enough to drive Syracuse ahead in the first half, as a pair of passing touchdowns gave FSU a 16-13 lead at the break. Seminoles QB Jordan Travis connected on both tosses, his lone TD passes of the day.
In the second half, Syracuse fell victim to an unfortunate series of events. Following a dropped backwards later, senior wide receiver Andrew Parchment scooped up the fumble and found the endzone for the Seminoles.
But the Orange didn’t waver. SU scored on its next three possessions, a pair of touchdowns and a field goal.
However, Syracuse’s defense struggled to halt the then-winless Noles. Running back Treshaun Ward scorched the Orange for 65 yards on a carry in the fourth, and with the game all tied up, Travis took two rushes for a combined 58 yards to set up FSU’s walk-off winner.
With all this flack on the defense, they weren’t all that bad. There were plenty of highlight plays in between, including an unbelievable interception by Duce Chestnut.
But that final drive exposed a lot about a group that was revered through the opening four games of the season, especially on the defensive line. A 247-yard day on the ground for the Seminoles capped off a subpar defensive showing for Tony White’s crew.
Both that and a few integral missteps proved costly for SU.
After failing to score in the first quarter for the third time in its first five games, Syracuse retooled and took the lead in the second. But it was only to commit a pair of costly penalties on the subsequent touchdown drive that capped off the first half for FSU. The holding and roughing the passer penalties are unacceptable when the defense has played cleaned football all the half.
Another point of reference also occurred in the first 24 minutes. SU kicker Andre Szmyt missed only the fifth PAT in his Syracuse tenure, which changed the complexity of the game.
But the worst of all was Babers’ lack of time management at the end of the second quarter. Syracuse failed to score with two timeouts and over 20 seconds to work with in plus territory.
These might seem minor, but in an ACC back-and-forth contest, even the most minuscule errors are detrimental.
In the heat (no pun intended) of playing aggressive to open up conference play, Babers kept his offense on the field for three fourth down yardage situations. All of which ended up in FSU’s favor.
One of which took place close to the red zone in the first quarter. The Orange elected to go for it and keep it on the ground with nothing doing. Tucker had barely eclipsed two yards per carry, a spot where SU should’ve either thrown the ball or grabbed the points. Later in the game, the Orange went for it at the 1-yard line, a hard decision to counteract. But it was in light of a scoring drought, where SU had struggled to find points.
These are calls that will forever be criticized due to the final result. But the most questionable of them all came in the fourth. With SU down three, the Orange drew up a designed quarterback run on second down, which resulted in one yard and a waste of a play. It’s calls like these that came back to bite Syracuse, as the trend of leaving points on the field ensued.
The Orange return next week to take on ranked Wake Forest, and following this deflating loss, with a chance to erase a game that could’ve easily ended up in their favor.