Syracuse Football: Orange saved its season with miraculous finish on road

Down by nine points with about five minutes remaining in its Atlantic Coast Conference contest against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday afternoon, Syracuse football looked like it was on the verge of a fourth-straight close setback in conference competition.

The heartache for the ‘Cuse program and Orange fans alike appeared as if it would continue onward. Following devastating three-point losses at Florida State, and at home to Wake Forest in overtime and to Clemson in Central New York, I figured that Syracuse football would come up just short once more versus Virginia Tech before a raucous Hokies crowd.

Thankfully, I was wrong. The Orange punched two drives into the end zone, capping off a 21-point fourth quarter, and Syracuse football finally got into the win column in ACC play within the 2021 season with a nerve-wracking and thrilling 41-36 conquest of Virginia Tech.

Man, that game proved stressful. But it was equally as delightful when the final seconds ticked off of the clock, and the ‘Cuse (4-4, 1-3) had snatched a somewhat surprising victory from the jaws of defeat against the Hokies (3-4, 1-2).

Syracuse football, if it can keep this momentum going, may be in the hunt for a bowl berth.

Offensive production certainly wasn’t an issue for the Orange versus Virginia Tech. Per cuse.com, Syracuse football collected a whopping 550 total yards, which consisted of a ridiculous 314 rushing yards and 236 passing yards from quarterback Garrett Shrader, who completed 16-of-34 attempts through the air.

On the ground, Shrader rushed 22 times for 174 yards and three scores. Meanwhile, running back Sean Tucker eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground for the 2021 stanza, as he registered 20 carries for 112 yards and one rushing touchdown in the team’s win over the Hokies.

For all the tremendous things that Syracuse football did rushing the ball, it was Shrader’s passing that guided the ‘Cuse to a success. First, he connected with wide receiver Courtney Jackson for a 12-yard score with about 2:30 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Then, with fewer than 30 seconds remaining in regulation, Shrader threw a fabulous 45-yard touchdown bomb to another wide receiver, Damien Alford, which resulted in the final 41-36 margin.

With this performance, the Orange landed its first ACC victory on the road dating back to November of 2019. It also, from my perspective, saved the 2021 season for the ‘Cuse, as the team now needs two wins in its last four match-ups to hopefully garner an invite to a post-season bowl encounter.

Credit the Syracuse football offense for converting all four of its attempts on fourth down. But, honestly, this squad’s special-teams unit had better improve.

The Orange missed a chip-shot field goal, and it also had an extra-point attempt blocked, which then resulted in a safety after the Hokies ran the ball back the entire length of the field. That’s six points right there that could have cost the ‘Cuse this game.

Up next for Syracuse football is a date with long-time rival Boston College on the Hill at 3:30 pm on Saturday, Oct. 30.