Yesterday’s bout at Truist Park pitted two 6-4 ACC teams with active losing streaks against one another. Predictably, Syracuse was the one to see its streak extended at the hands of Wake Forest. The 45-35 final score isn’t quite as close as the game was, so let’s dive into some key numbers that explain how and why SU fell to the Deacs for the third straight year.
First and foremost, Syracuse once again proved incapable of combating the bad vibes that crop up around this time of year. SU has been ice-cold in November under Dino Babers, and only continued a dreadful streak of futility in the month with another L. Since Babers was hired in 2016, the Orange are just 5-23 (a .179 winning percentage) in November games with one more to go this season. Three of those five wins came in 2018’s bowl season, and two more came in 2019. The ‘Cuse went winless in November in 2016, 2017, 2020, 2021, and are fruitless so far in 2022.
Over its brutal 28-game march, Syracuse has been outscored 950-598 in the month of November. On average, that translates to a 34-21 defeat. The .179 winning percentage is especially striking; not only is it much worse than the career mark of Syracuse’s losingest modern head coach (Greg Robinson at .213), but it’s worse than all but one FBS head coach who was active for at least one game in 2022. Only now-fired USF head coach Jeff Scott (a disastrous .133 mark between 2020-22) produced a tenure that comes close to what Babers’ teams look like in November. Whether it be due to injuries, tougher competition, or a combination of other factors, Syracuse’s funk in the calendar’s penultimate month is as bizarre as it is frustrating.
A main reason Syracuse faltered in yet another November contest was the excellent play from Wake Forest’s signal-caller. Redshirt-junior Sam Hartman came out firing and diced up the SU defense (now sans Garrett Williams) for 331 yards and four touchdowns. Hartman’s yardage total is even more impressive considering he completed 30 of 43 passes for a rare combination of accuracy and efficiency. Wake’s gunslinger joined a select crew of 14 passers to complete 30 more passes for 300 or more yards against an SU defense since 2000.
Hartman’s name joins a hefty amount of talent on the list. Former and current NFL players like Dan Orlovsky (2004 at UConn), Teddy Bridgewater (2012 vs. Louisville), and Jameis Winston (2014 vs. Florida State) all carved up the Orange defense to similar extents. Funnily enough, Hartman wasn’t even the first name to do it against the ‘Cuse this year – Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell lit the Dome up for 424 yards on 39 completions back in September. Unfortunately for SU, Hartman accomplished what O’Connell could not and sealed a victory in the process.
Hartman was on his game Saturday night, but he was helped by a certified ‘Cuse killer. For the second consecutive year, wideout A.T. Perry fried the SU defense with an otherworldly performance. The 6’5”, 205-pound redshirt-junior dusted Syracuse’s corners all game long for 119 yards on 10 grabs and finished with a three-touchdown game against the Orange for the second consecutive season. Perry’s outburst on Saturday marked just the 11th time since 2000 that a player has caught three or more touchdowns against Syracuse. Predictably, Perry is the only one to have done it twice, much less twice in a row.
Unlike Hartman’s quarterback company, the receiver penthouse reserved for Syracuse dominators isn’t gleaming with pro talent. The NFL presence includes names like Washington’s Jermaine Kearse (9 catches, 179 yards, 3 TDs vs. SU in 2010) and USC’s Marqise Lee (11/66/3 at SU in 2012), but the rest are simply talented college players. Recent additions to the club include NC State’s Thayer Thomas (9 /102/3 in 2020) and Notre Dame’s Javon McKinley (7/111/3 in 2020). Perry stands alone at the top with a combined 13 catches for 256 yards and six (!) touchdowns against SU the past two seasons, including a walk-off snag in 2021 that ended a Dome showdown in overtime.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Syracuse’s offense mostly held up its end of the bargain. SU finally shook off its four-week-long rut and looked reinvigorated. Garrett Shrader and Sean Tucker both looked healthier than they have in weeks, and offensive coordinator Robert Anae dialed up new segments of his playbook that reached guys like Courtney Jackson, D’Marcus Adams, and LeQuint Allen. When the dust settled, Syracuse had scored 35 points and gained 477 yards. Unfortunately, seven penalties and a pair of missed field goals spoiled a solid effort and led to the eleventh loss under Dino Babers in which a Syracuse team gained 470 yards or more and still lost.
SU’s bad-luck offensive crew includes a couple of different games in 2016 and 2017 when Babers’ defenses were truly awful, such as the 2016 Pitt game that saw Syracuse score 61 points, gain 668 yards, and still lose by 15. Other instances include 2019’s 56-34 thumping against Louisville (510 yards) and last year’s Wake Forest clash (514 yards). Saturday’s loss means that Babers’ teams are now a puzzling 12-11 when they gain 470 or more yards but does mean the Orange offense is hotter than it’s been in weeks ahead of a trip to Boston College. Make of that what you will.