Syracuse needed both a fake field goal and a stopped two-point conversion in double overtime to beat Villanova Friday night. And both of those plays came after a botched 25-yard field goal that would have won Villanova the game in regulation.
Facing a fourth-and-goal from the one with the game tied at 20, Syracuse went with the fake field goal pass and holder Riley Dixon hit Kendall Moore for the TD.
But Syracuse got the ball first in the second overtime. Villanova had a chance to tie or go for the win. After scoring a touchdown, Villanova went for the win. It didn't work, as the QB draw that had been so successful for John Robertson throughout the game got stuffed at the goal line.
And upon making the stop, Syracuse celebrated like it had won a bowl game. Mind you, the Orange did win a bowl game last year, beating Minnesota in the Texas Bowl. And Villanova is an FCS school. But when you escape, I guess you've got to breathe a big elated sigh of relief. Especially when you should have lost in regulation.
After Villanova's Chris Gough kicked a field goal to tie the game 17-17 in the fourth quarter, Syracuse went three-and-out, giving the ball back to the Wildcats with less than six minutes remaining. Villanova methodically marched down the field – similar to the way North Dakota State did against Kansas State on the first Friday of the 2013 season – and as Syracuse used its final two timeouts with approximately a minute remaining, Villanova played for another 25-yard field goal.
It was perfectly centered attempt. And in the Carrier Dome there is no wind. But Gough pushed it to the right. Overtime, and an eventual Syracuse win followed.
It was a win that came without starting QB Terrel Hunt for most of the game. Hunt was ejected in the second quarter for throwing a punch at a Villanova LB after a tackle. Austin Wilson replaced him at QB and while his 11-17 statline passing doesn't look terrible, he only threw for 89 yards. Without Hunt, Villanova could afford to focus on everything in front of the safeties.
Is it panic time in Syracuse? No, not yet. Kansas State lost to North Dakota State last year and they turned out alright, winning the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Syracuse merely escaped Friday night. The ACC's middle tier is wide-open too; a bowl game is still a good possibility. Barring a major upset along the way, let's hope a bowl is the next time we see that celebration.
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