Late field goal pushes Syracuse past sloppy, again, UVA, for 22-20 Orange win
Pick the play – one of the two missed field goals in the first half, the inadvertent facemask that sustained a late Syracuse drive, any of Brennan Armstrong’s missed reads or missed throws.
One of them goes the right way, and Syracuse isn’t 4-0 now.
Instead, the Orange was able to escape a mistake-prone UVA to win, 22-20, on Friday night in upstate New York.
‘Cuse led 16-0 at the half, after holding the ‘Hoos to 109 yards.
Virginia (2-2) did have two chances to score in the first half, but Brendan Farrell was no good on two field-goal tries, from 50 and 48 yards, before getting the hook from head coach Tony Elliott.
The Cavaliers took the first possession of the second half and drove 75 yards in 10 plays. Brennan Armstrong was 5-of-5 for 34 yards through the air on the drive, and added 10 yards on two runs, before wideout Keytaon Thompson, lining up in the backfield, took a handoff and scored on a 1-yard run to get the score to 16-7.
Syracuse then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Donovan Johnson recovered at the Syracuse 13, setting up a quick UVA scoring drive that was punched in by a 4-yard Perris Jones TD run.
Will Bettridge, in for Farrell, had his extra-point try blocked, but the score was 16-13 five and a half minutes into the second half.
The teams traded three-and-outs, before a long Syracuse drive – 14 plays, 58 yards – finished with a 40-yard Andre Szmyt field goal that made it 19-13 Syracuse with 24 seconds left in the third.
Virginia had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the fourth after Chico Bennett Jr. recovered a Chance Jackson fumble at the Syracuse 36, but Armstrong was intercepted on the next play, on a pass intended for a double-covered Thompson, by Garrett Williams.
After a Syracuse punt, Armstrong led a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was actually mostly Jones, who ran for 59 yards on six carries on the march, before Armstrong connected with Thompson on a 4-yard TD pass on fourth-and-goal to tie the score.
The Bettridge extra point, not to be taken for granted, was good, putting UVA up 20-19 with 5:51 left.
The game would turn on a sack of Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader on a third-and-seven play at the Syracuse 41. Linebacker Hunter Stewart inadvertently grabbed Shrader’s facemask as Shrader fell to the turf, resulting in an automatic first down.
The drive would end with another Szmyt field goal, this one from 31 yards, giving Syracuse the lead with 1:14 to go.
Virginia had one last chance, and advanced the ball just short of midfield, but Armstrong threw behind tight end Grant Misch on third-and-four, and on fourth down, he forced a pass into coverage intended for Lavel Davis Jr., not seeing an open Thompson at the first-down marker.
The pass to Thompson was incomplete, and Syracuse was able to take a knee to run out the clock.
Inside the Numbers
The UVA offense sputtered again, gaining 287 yards on the night, with Armstrong going 19-for-38 through the air for 138 yards, a TD, an INT and an 83.9 passer rating.
The new offensive scheme directed by Des Kitchings is obviously not working with Armstrong at the helm, with BA, who threw for 4.449 yards, 31 TDs and a 65.2 percent completion rate a year ago, going for 848 yards, three TDs, four INTs and a 52.1 percent completion rate through four games in 2022.
Basically, they’ve broken Armstrong, and it’s starting to look irreparable.
Jones ran for 87 yards on 13 carries, as the run game gained a respectable 149 yards on the ground.
Thompson had eight catches on 14 targets for 55 yards, and Dontayvion Wicks had five catches on 10 targets for 42 yards, anemic numbers for two productive guys a year ago.
Shrader was 22-of-33 for 277 yards and an INT, and a 131.1 passer rating, for Syracuse, while eating six sacks from the Virginia front.
Sean Tucker, the leading rusher in the ACC a year ago, had a quiet night, running for 60 yards on 21 carries.
Syracuse wideout Oronde Gadsen II had a big night, with seven catches on 10 targets for 113 yards.