Syracuse football: Sluggish fourth quarter dooms Orange in loss to Duke

SU is now eliminated from bowl contention for the first time since 2011.

The Carrier Dome hasn’t been kind to the Syracuse Orange this season.

Hoping to keep its postseason hopes alive against Duke on Saturday, the Orange instead dropped its third straight game, 27-10, in front of 39,331 fans on Senior Day. SU will finish 1-5 at the Dome and out of the bowl picture.

“The kids played hard today. I thought our defensive kids played really well,” SU head coach Scott Shafer said. “It’s a difficult loss, but we’ll go back to work. The bye week couldn’t come at a better time with two games left.”

Photo: Luke Rafferty
Disappointed Orange fans look on in agitation as Duke scored in the final quarter.

Although the final score might suggest otherwise, the game was close until the final quarter.

With 5:18 left in the third quarter, SU fourth-string quarterback Mitch Kimble ran it in from 8 yards out to tie the game at 10.

Kimble, who had taken snaps with the scout team at practice during the week, looked comfortable running the read-option with Prince-Tyson Gulley and Ervin Philips. He completed six passes for 39 yards, including an impressive 19-yard hookup with wide receiver Jarrod West against a heavy blitz.

Kimble also added 42 yards rushing on 10 carries and the lone Orange touchdown.

“I thought there were some butterflies, but he did some nice things,” Shafer said. “We knew Mitch could do some of the things he did today, so we felt very comfortable about it. We felt like Mitch gave us a great chance to win.”

With Kimble providing a small spark offensively, the Orange defense continued to play at an extremely high level.

Freshman linebacker Zaire Franklin, making his first career start, finished with six tackles. Senior linebackers Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis combined for nine tackles and one pass breakup while flying sideline-to-sideline almost every snap.

“To come out and execute at the highest level was good,” Lynch said. “This defense has been something special this year, but it’s a tough loss.  It’s frustrating, but we can’t control anything other than what we do defensively.”

With the game still tied early in the fourth quarter, Riley Dixon punted from his own end zone. After fielding the punt at the Duke 48 yard line, wide receiver Jamison Crowder evaded a group of Orange defenders before sprinting down the seam for a 52-yard score that turned momentum permanently.

“We missed a few tackles in the middle, which comes with us being in protection mode,” Shafer said. “To some degree, yes, it runs its course in the kicking game with all of the injuries we’ve dealt with. Guys that were starting in the kicking game are now getting full reps on offense or defense, so it adds up.”  

Looking to get back into the game down 10 points, Austin Wilson, who started the game under center for the Orange, took over for Kimble and threw an ill-advised pick to Blue Devils defensive back Breon Borders, who returned it to midfield and put the Blue Devils in prime position to put the final nail in the Syracuse coffin.

Facing third-down at the 46 yard line, Duke quarterback Anthony Boone lofted a deep pass down the left sideline to Issac Blakeney, who outmuscled Orange cornerback Julian Whigham for a 54-yard insurance touchdown. Blakeney also beat Whigham on a 22-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter.

Duke has now won 10 of its last 11 ACC contests, which is the best stretch in program history since the 1961-63 seasons. The Blue Devils have allowed just 164 total points this season.

Coming into the year, Shafer set a goal of eight wins. Now the best the Orange can do is five.

However, the Orange seniors who played their last game at the Dome know the program has turned the corner despite this year’s struggled with the injury bug

“To know my senior year and Syracuse career comes to an end in Boston is tough,” senior left tackle Sean Hickey said. “This senior class has had so much success here, so it’s upsetting knowing the season’s not gone the way we wanted. We were dealt a tough hand, but guys kept fighting.”

The news was not all bad for Syracuse, as Gulley became the 22nd player in team history rush for 2,000 career yards.

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