Big Play SU Effort Falls Short Vs NC State
Syracuse took visiting NC State to the wire, advancing to the Wolfpack seven-yard line before running out of downs, in a 36-29 Orange loss at the Carrier Dome.
The Orange ran out of time in a back-and-forth battle that saw 'Cuse post a season-high six sacks and come away with another two takeaways to up their national lead to 22. QB Rex Culpepper threw for 254 yards and two scores as Syracuse came up just short. Wide receiver Taj Harris had a career day, hauling in a personal-best 13 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown, and linebacker Mikel Jones created yet another takeaway, with his fourth interception on the year, a mark that ranks first in the ACC and third in FBS football.
Rover Ja'Had Carter finished with 13 total tackles, his career-best.
After Zonovan Knight's touchdown to get the Wolfpack on the board midway through the first quarter, freshman speedster Trebor Pena struck right back, returning the ensuing kickoff 98-yards to the house. It was the longest kickoff return for the Orange since Dorian Graham returned a 98-yard kickoff for a score in 2011.
The Orange defense came up with its first takeaway on of the game when linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arku forced a Bailey Hockman fumble as he was about to cross into the end zone. After an extended drive, Andre Szmyt drilled a 45-yard field goal to put 'Cuse on top, 10-7.
The Orange defense then got the ball right back, when linebacker Mikel Jones hauled in his ACC-leading fourth interception of the season. Cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu helped force the miscue with a jaring hit, and the ball landed in Jones' hands. Szmyt again connected on a short field goal, this time from 23 yards, to give the Orange a 13-7 lead.
After NC State answered with a score, Culpepper connected on a 60-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nykeim Johnson to help the Orange take the lead right back. One play later, Marlowe Wax sacked Hockman in the end zone, a 12-yard loss that resulted in a safety, to give 'Cuse a 22-14 lead heading into the locker room.
The teams traded touchdown receptions early in the third quarter. Thayer Thomas pulled NC State within two points after catching a beautifully-thrown Hockman pass from 31-yards out, but Taj Harris' career day continued when he answered right back with a 13-yard touchdown reception of his own.
Hockman put the Wolfpack ahead with 14:14 left in regulation on a 26-yard scoring pass to Emeka Emezie. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and NC State held a 33-29 lead.
Christopher Dunn tacked on a 31-yard field goal with 5:10 remaining for NC State. The Orange engineered one final threat, advancing to the NC State seven-yard line before stalling.
Syracuse will close the 2020 season on Saturday, Dec. 5 at Notre Dame. Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. on NBC.
GAME NOTES: Syracuse started six freshmen on defense, including the first collegiate start by LB Marlowe Wax ... The six freshmen starters is the most on one side of the ball in program history, breaking the previous record of five which was set last week … WR Taj Harris moved into 10th all time in program history in receptions.