Too Many Mistakes Leads to High Scoring Football Loss
By James Groh
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — There was no shortage of action in an ACC showdown between Syracuse and Wake Forest at the Carrier Dome.
In total, there were 18 scoring plays between the two teams and a combined 1,364 yards of total offense. Amidst a scoring palooza, Wake Forest emerged the victor, beating Syracuse 64-43.
A large part of the scoring line for Wake Forest was its quarterback play. John Wolford threw for 363 yards and three scores, while also rushing for 139 yards and three touchdowns.
“The quarterback is a shifty guy,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “Fifth year senior, he knows all the tricks. I just thought the game he played was, wow.”
The game got off to a blistering start. In the first quarter, each team traded off touchdowns: Wake Forest scored and Syracuse would answer.
After trailing for the majority of the first half, Syracuse finally took the lead six minutes into the second quarter.
Quarterback Zack Mahoney dropped back and lofted a 30-yard lob to Steve Ishmael. Despite being closely covered, Ishmael made an acrobatic one-handed catch in the end zone on a play that could have warranted pass interference on the defense. The Orange took a 28-21 lead.
In the final two minutes of the first half Syracuse struck a bit of good fortune. As Wake Forest was set to receive a punt, a Demon Deacon blocker ran into the return man before he caught the ball. The Orange picked up the loose ball and a few plays later, Zack Mahoney hit Ravian Pierce off a play action pass for the score.
By the end of the first half, Syracuse scored five touchdowns and one field goal. Wake Forest notched three touchdowns and one field goal of its own.
Momentum was with the Orange as the first half ended with Syracuse leading 38-24. However, this wouldn’t last long.
The second half featured a high-octane Wake Forest team and a mistake-prone Syracuse. The Orange seemingly hit a wall and was unable to muster any real offensive pressure. It allowed the Demon Deacons to mount a comeback.
Wake Forest scored a pair of field goals and a touchdown to bring the Demon Deacons within one point of the Orange. However, the extra point was blocked and returned by Scoop Bradshaw. It was the first time in Syracuse history a extra point was blocked and returned.
While Syracuse was able to preserve its lead off a rare play, it wasn’t able to hold off the Demon Deacons for much longer. Just before the 12-minute marker of the fourth quarter, Wolford zig-zagged across the field to put his team up 47-43.
As the Orange looked poised to return the favor, Zack Mahoney threw an interception. It was returned by Demon Deacon Jaboree Williams 52 yards. Just five plays later, Wolford found Cam Serigne for a six-yard score. That touchdown put Wake Forest past the 50-point mark as it took a 54-43 lead.
The Demon Deacons would go on to score 10 more points en route to a 64-43 victory.
Babers said that this lose stung.
“We’re extremely disappointed on our side of the locker room,” he said. “We know we have to do a lot better.”
Syracuse gave up 371 yards through the air and 363 rushing yards to Wake Forest. Babers said the toughest part of the Demon Deacon offense to stop was its quarterback.
However, the Oranges quarterback play didn’t quite matchup to that of its opponent. Mahoney was 33-60 throwing for 384 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Both interceptions happened late in the fourth quarter as SU was trying to make its comeback.
Quarterback was the position in question all week long for Syracuse. It wasn’t clear if starter Eric Dungey was going to be able to play. He warmed up with the first team in full pads, but Mahoney was ultimately given the start. Later in the game, Dungey could be seen on the sideline with a boot on his right foot and in sweats.
After the game, Mahoney said the decision for him to start was made minutes before kick off.
“I didn’t know I was going to start until 14 minutes before kick off,” he said.
Asked who would get the start next weekend, Babers said that it was too early to make that decision, and he would assess his players during the week.
Now Syracuse is in a must win situation if it wants to become bowl eligible.
“There is no margin of error,” linebacker Zaire Franklin said. “Its do or die time. No more time for any excuses.”
After Syracuse’s third loss in a row, its record is now 4-6 and 2-4 in the ACC. Wake Forest improves to 6-4 and 3-3 in the conference. This win clinched bowl eligibility for the Demon Deacons.
Up next for the Orange is a game against a 6-4 Louisville team down in Kentucky.