The Syracuse Orange used a 21 point fourth quarter to overcome Missouri Saturday night by a score of 31-27. The win made the Orange bowl eligible for the second time in three seasons. Prior to 2010, the Orange had suffered a five year drought of not playing post-season football. The win showed the heart and perseverance of a Syracuse team that has had a tough time on the road this season. While this wasn’t the team’s best performance of the year, they overcame mistakes and protected the ball en route to a huge victory and their sixth win of the season.
Syracuse overcame an early 14-3 deficit to take their first lead of the night with 20 seconds to go in the game. Alec Lemon went for 244 yards and two touchdowns including the game winner. Ryan Nassib had a slow start to the game but finished strong, throwing for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Prince Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith combined for 101 yards on the ground in the winning effort. Gulley left the game with an injury to what appeared to be his shoulder, and there has been no word as to what exactly is wrong as well as his status going forward.
In the heartbreaking loss, Missouri quarterback James Franklin threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game with a head injury in the second half. It was not confirmed to be a concussion, but he was out of the game for precautionary reasons. Mizzou running back Kendial Lawrence also had a great day on the ground, rushing for 119 yards and a touchdown. The loss drops the Tigers to 5-5, and Missouri now needs to win next week at Texas A&M if they want to make a bowl game.
The Orange on the other hand can now look ahead to the bowl season for the first time since winning the Pinstripe Bowl two seasons ago. The Orange have the possibility of playing in either the Belk Bowl (Charlotte, NC), the BBVA Compass Bowl (West Birmingham, AL), the Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, FL), the Pinstripe Bowl (New York, NY), or the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl (St. Petersburg, FL). My personal preference would be a return trip to the Pinstripe Bowl (if you didn’t go in 2010 you have to this year- an absolute blast for all Syracuse fans with a lot of bus trips down to NY), but from this fan’s perspective I’m just glad to see some heat come off of Doug Marrone for really getting the most out of his players down the stretch when it mattered the most.
Tonight was a win that Syracuse fans can (and should) be very proud of. This team did literally nothing to help themselves out in the first half to put themselves in a position to win, but at the end of the day they found a way to overcome it. Syracuse again climbed out of an early hole, something they have not been very successful of doing on the road this season heading in to tonight. This team never gave up and really made plays when they had to, especially on that last drive of the game with the fourth down conversion. This was an enormous win for the program and the players that have worked so hard to get to this point. The Orange need to finish the regular season strong at Temple Friday, and Syracuse could lock up third place in the conference with the Cincinnati loss today to Rutgers.
But for the time being celebrate it. The Syracuse Orange are post-season bound in what is beginning to seem like a more expected goal in the Doug Marrone era.