Always leave them wanting more is an old show business adage, and in a way the Syracuse University football team ended its 2019 season in a similar fashion.
The 39-30 overtime victory over Wake Forest at the Carrier Dome on Saturday was a roller coaster ride that saw the Orange start off strong with a 17-3 lead only to see the Demon Deacons come back and tie it in the third quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, Syracuse would twice retake the lead and Wake Forest would respond with the tying score, the last a field goal at the end of regulation to force overtime.
After Syracuse took a 33-30 lead in its overtime possession it looked like Wake Forest was on its way to the winning touchdown until Trill Williams ripped the ball away from Kendall Hinton at the 6 and ran 94 yards for the dramatic game-clinching score. For the Orange fans who stuck it out (more about that later), it was a thrilling end to a disappointing season.
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FIVE ORANGES: Williams’ strip and fumble return for a touchdown in overtime was the capper to a five-turnover game for the Syracuse defense. The Orange recovered two fumbles and had three interceptions. It was the first time the Syracuse defense forced five turnovers in a game since 2014 against Notre Dame.
Free safety Andre Cisco alone had an interception and a fumble recovery in the second quarter, something you don’t see very often.
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FOUR ORANGES: A pair of seniors had excellent performances in their final games as Orange. Running back Moe Neal had 98 yards rushing (4.9 yards per carry) and a 13-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Clayton Welch had to start in place of an injured Tommy DeVito and put up a solid effort, 21 completions in 36 attempts and a pair of touchdowns.
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THREE ORANGES: Good special teams play can be the difference between winning and losing, especially in an overtime game and Syracuse’s kicker and punter came up big.
Kicker Andre Szmyt made all four of his field goals, tying his career best, including a 49-yarder that game the Orange the lead with 44 seconds left in regulation and a 40-yarder in overtime.
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Senior punter Sterling Hofrichter, who is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award (for the nation’s top punter), finished his career with five punts for a 45.4 yard average with two inside the 20. Hofrichter is now the Syracuse career in punts (272) and punting yardage (11,651).
TWO ORANGES: Wide receiver Trishton Jackson has had an excellent season and he finished up with another strong performance. The junior had a career-high 10 receptions for 111 yards and a 12-yard TD. He finished with 1,023 receiving yards, the sixth 1,000-yard season in Syracuse history.
ONE ORANGE: Being a win, it’s tough to find a lot of negatives but the one that pops out is the Orange finishing with 12 penalties for 122 yards. Some of the flags on defense kept Wake Forest’s drives alive in the fourth quarter. On the other side of the ball, they created obstacles for the offense.
NUMBER OF THE GAME
33,719: The announced attendance for the final game of the season at the Carrier Dome, although it didn’t look like that many fans showed up. It’s easy to excuse a fan not wanting to see a team play a game just for pride but it’s inexcusable when some fans actually left when the game was going to overtime. If you’ve already committed more than three hours to watching, why not stay longer and see how it ends?
Too bad, the fans who left missed a thrilling ending.
Recruiting, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said after the game he will be out on the recruiting trail Monday trying to bring in players that will improve his team after a 5-7 season. The Orange aren’t going to a bowl but winning two of their final three games shows the team didn’t quit and maybe 2020 will be a return to what fans saw in 2018, double-digit wins and a bowl.