Syracuse football struggles to find offensive rhythm; falls at Wake Forest

Orange accumulates just 14 first downs in 28-9 loss to Demon Deacons.

On a chilly, wet night in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Syracuse Orange football team took on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons with a mission—getting its first ACC win of the season. The mission was unsuccessful, however, as the Demon Deacons (5-1, 2-1 ACC) came out on top, 28-9.

The game started with a three-and-out for SU (2-4, 0-2 ACC) on its first drive. On the ensuing possession, Wake Forest fumbled a fourth down snap in its own end zone. The Demon Deacons fell on the ball for a safety, giving the Orange a 2-0 lead.   

Photo: Jon Cerio
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey on the sideline during Saturday's game against Wake Forest.

The Orange punted on its first three possessions of the game.  Normally relying on its offense, it was the Orange defense that kept them in the game for much of the contest. With just over two minutes left in the first quarter, SU forced and recovered a fumble from Demon Deacons quarterback John Wolford at the goal line for a touchback.

In the first quarter Syracuse punted on all four trips, but still led 2-0 after the game's first 15 minutes. With 11:07 left in the second quarter Wake Forest took its first lead of the contest when Wolford ran for a 7-yard scoring, putting the Demon Deacons ahead 7-2.

Syracuse regains the lead, Wake Forest takes it back

Syracuse head coach Dino Babers wasn’t as aggressive offensively Saturday night as he has been in the past. Syracuse wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo came into the game leading the FBS in receiving yards (840), but only caught four passes for 36 yards. The Orange rushed the ball 40 times against Wake Forest, attempting only 26 passes.

“They were blitzing a lot on first down, they were stressing some personnel,” Babers said. “We had trouble with it. The quarterback can’t throw it to them if he can’t see them.”

The Orange answered with a one-yard TD run from Dontae Strickland with 4:45 left in the half and held onto that two-point lead for a little over three minutes.  That’s when Wolford ran in for another score, this time for a 37-yard touchdown.

Syracuse wouldn’t score again, but it came close just before halftime. Strickland ran for 49 yards into the Demon Deacons red zone with under a minute to play in the period.  But on the next play, Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey threw an interception in the end zone and Wake Forest headed into halftime leading 14-9.

The second half would be more of the same for the Orange. A Jake Pickard interception with just over five minutes played in the third quareter gave Syracuse the ball at midfield, but the Orange couldn’t capitalize. Dungey was sacked for a loss of 13 on third down, forcing the Orange to punt. SU punted 10 times on the night.

Penalties hurt the Orange down the stretch. After Syracuse’s Kendall Coleman was disqualified for targeting with four minutes left in the game, the very next play saw Wake Forest running back Cade Carney rush into the end zone for a 3-yard score, making it a two possession game, 21-9. The Demon Deacons would later recover a fumble and take it back 83 yards for another touchdown with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

Syracuse will look for its first ACC win of the year next week, when it takes on Virginia Tech at the Carrier Dome. Kickoff is set for 3:45 p.m.

This story orginally appeared on The Newhouse Sports Media Center 

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