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Sunday, Dec 01, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Syracuse Beats Wake Forest 39-30 in OT Thriller

By Jonah Karp

CitrusTV Football Reporter

At this point last year, Syracuse Football was destined for a bowl game for the first time in five seasons. Dino Babers had led the Orange to their best record in two decades. This was undoubtedly a program destined for greatness for years to come.

Fast forward a year, and Syracuse Football is on the outside looking in on a bowl game. Dino Babers has watched his team manage a measly four wins post-Thanksgiving, a threshold the team reached with a game remaining in September during the 2018 campaign. A program on the rise became a program’s return to normalcy.

But sports can be funny. They have a way of making you believe something when really anything can happen on any given day. I mean, look no further than college basketball over the last few weeks—with Evansville defeating Kentucky and SF Austin taking down Duke—to find just how unpredictable sports can be. It’s why we watch the games.

Few likely would have predicted that Syracuse (5-7, 2-6 ACC) would find themselves on the verge of a losing season following last year’s run. With the Orange sitting at 4-7, and Wake Forest (8-4, 4-4 ACC) at 8-3, predictably, the Dome hosted its smallest turnout of the season (33,719). But what those fans witnessed on Saturday was unpredictability at its finest.

What was once a 14-point first-half lead for the Orange, evaporated into a 20-20 second-half tie. Then a 27-27 tie. And after Andre Szmyt drilled a 49-yard field goal with 44 seconds left, Wake Forest drove down the field in the remaining time, and Nick Sciba knotted the game at 30 apiece to send the contest to overtime.

Syracuse had yet to play an overtime game this year. The Orange had first possession in the extra period and took a 33-30 lead following a Szmyt 40-yarder.

A touchdown would win the game for the Demon Deacons. Sam Hartman scrambled for a first down to the 10-yard line. Hartman fired a high pass toward the endzone and out of the reach of Kendall Hinton.

On second down, Hartman went back to Hinton on a soft toss to the right flat. Hinton raced to the 6-yard line where he met Trill Williams. The sophomore defensive back stripped Hinton and recovered the fumble. Just falling on the ball would have secured a victory for Syracuse. However, in front of the loyal Orange faithful braving the frigid temperatures to see the final game of a disappointing season; with his senior teammates looking on from the field and the sideline playing their last minutes for Syracuse, Trill Williams took the football the distance to complete a 39-30 Syracuse win.

“I didn’t have to score, but I scored for the seniors going out,” Williams said. “I had to give them something. So, when they leave, they remember that play.”

Before the game, the program honored 23 players and one manager who are each set to graduate this year. One of those players is Sterling Hofrichter, only the third three-year captain in team history and is now the all-time career leader in punting yards (11,754) passing Brendan Carney (11,534).

Following the win, Babers delivered a heartfelt and teary-eyed message. “To have a situation where we could send those young men out as winners, and the rest of the team rally, to play for something when a lot of people think they had nothing to play for, shows how close those guys are and how we are a family. A la Familia and ohana.”

@jonahkarp82 | jokarp@syr.edu