Syracuse shuts out Wake Forest for second ACC victory

Though neither team scored in the first half, the Orange capitalized on some Wake Forest turnovers to win 13-0.

It was a tale of two halves for Syracuse (4-4, 2-2 ACC), as the offense did nothing in the first half but put together two touchdown drives in the third quarter for the 13-0 victory over Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4 ACC).

“We had a lot of time to think during the bye week after getting our rumps kicked,” head coach Scott Shafer said. “I was really proud of out kids. They went to work after that tough loss. They’ve become tighter when we’ve had tough situations.”

After coming off a bye week, the offense looked stagnant in the first half, failing to score any points even though the Orange had nine offensive possessions. Untimely penalties and an inability to sustain drives forced pressure upon the defense and punting units, which seemed up to the challenge.

Punter Riley Dixon had one of his better afternoons, averaging 40.2 yards per punt and placing three of his punts inside the 20-yard line. That gave SU’s defense a chance to pin Wake Forest back, in turn giving the offense a chance to score some points.

The Syracuse defense piles on Wake Forest wide receiver Sherman Ragland III during the Orange's 13-0 victory. The game marked the second shutout of the season for Syracuse, and the first against a conference opponent since 1996 against Rutgers. (Photo: Shawn Miller)

“I think the sway in the game was our kids on offense,” Shafer said, citing two drives of over 10 plays at the end of the first half and beginning of the second. “Those 24 hard-nosed plays really expressed our will.”

That first half drive resulted in no points, eventually stalling at Wake Forest’s 39-yard line before Dixon was brought on to punt. The second half drive was a bit more satisfying, though, resulting in a 5-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Terrel Hunt. Hunt was more effective with his feet, rushing 10 times for a total of 36 yards and the touchdown.

The deep ball gave Hunt the most trouble as he constantly threw the ball a yard or two past his open receivers leading to missed opportunities.

Brisly Estime, 20, attempts to break a tackle in the second half of the game against Wake Forest Saturday. Estime made his first start for the Orange, and finished with nine receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. (Photo: Shawn Miller)

“It was really just how far I had to throw it or how much touch I have to put on my passes,” Hunt said.

Luckily, that wasn’t the downfall for the Orange. The defense fed off the energy of the offense after the touchdown run; grabbing an interception on the next series that helped give SU it’s best field position of the day. The interception by Isaiah Johnson was his first of the season and came after he batted the ball at the line of scrimmage.

“I just put my hands up,” Johnson said. “I knew the ball was live, but I didn’t think that I’d be the one to catch it.”

It wasn’t the only positive that the defensive line had on the game. The constant pressure they were able to have forced opposing quarterback Tanner Price into a lot of unfavorable situations, especially after wide receiver Michael Campanaro was lost for the game with a shoulder injury. The defensive line had two sacks on the day, but was in Price’s face throughout the day.

Brisly Estime is hoisted by teammates in the end zone after Estime scored the first touchdown of his collegiate career Saturday against Wake Forest. Estime finished with nine receptions for 62 yards in his first start for the Orange. (Photo: Shawn Miller)

Surprisingly, SU’s second touchdown was never even supposed to happen. Instead of running the ball on end-around run, wide receiver Jarrod West stopped short and tossed a pass to a wide-open Brisly Estime in the end zone. It was Estime’s first collegiate touchdown, and West’s first passing touchdown of his career.

“We tried three different kids on that play in practice,” Schafer said. “And it was horrible.”

Schafer said he told offensive coordinator George McDonald to scrap the play, but he went through with it anyway. With a 13-point lead, SU decided to keep rushing the ball, hoping to control the clock with its strong defense and ability to run. The Orange finished the afternoon with 183 rushing yards, led by running back Prince-Tyson Gulley, who had 85 rushing yards.

“We went into the game saying that if we could be, at least, plus one at the end of the game in turnovers and rush for 50 yards or more than the opponent, we would win that game,” Shafer said.

Former Syracuse Orange quarterback Donovan McNabb celebrates his jersey retirement during halftime of the Orange's victory over Wake Forest, Saturday, November 2, 2013. (Photo: Shawn Miller)

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