Syracuse Defeats Virginia 22-20, Improves to 4-0 for the First Time since 2018
After 55 minutes, Virginia Quarterback Brennan Armstrong finally found the back of the end zone, hitting Lavel Davis, Jr. for a six yard score. UVA finally had a lead; SU was down 20-19 and once again needed QB Garrett Shrader and his offense to save them.
Things once again seemed bleak after Shrader was sacked on a third down during the ensuing drive. But Syracuse stayed alive on a Virginia face mask penalty. The Orange once again faced bleak circumstances, after Shrader took a deep sack to set up 3rd and 17. SU’s quarterback ran a draw on the 3rd-and-long and set up an Andre Szmyt 31-yard field goal attempt, which the senior converted, to give Syracuse a late 22-20 lead.
“We’ve got old Andre [Szmyt] back,” Head Coach Dino Babers said postgame, alluding to some of the kickers' struggles last season.
Virginia returned the ensuing kickoff to its own 35 to set up a possible late stage comeback. Armstrong followed that up with a 12-yard run and UVA seemed to be in business. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, that would be the last of the positives. The last gasp came on a 4th-and-4 pass from Armstrong which fell harmlessly to the ground, securing a Syracuse (4-0, 2-0 ACC) win and continuing the perfect start.
While it was the defense that made the big play late. SU’s offense was the unit getting things done early on. The Orange came out of the gates firing. Trebor Peña returning the opening kickoff 57 yards and well into Virginia territory. It took just 5 plays for Garret Shrader and Co. to find the end zone on a 17-yard rush by the quarterback.
Shrader completed 22 of 33 passes for 277 yards on the night. There were some struggles for the former Mississippi State QB. The transfer had only 11 yards on the ground, in big part due to him taking sacks for big losses. Shrader also threw his first interception of the season. It was one of four turnovers by the SU offense.
What Shrader did well was find his new favorite target, Oronde Gadsden II. Gadsden II had seven catches for 107 yards, his 2nd game in a row with at least 100 receiving yards. Of those seven catches, six came in the first half. Gadsden II frequently picked up yards after the catch.
LISTEN: Oronde Gadsden II broke out last week against Purdue with his first career 100-yard performance. The sophomore wideout continues to shine vs. UVA, with 103 yards in the first half alone. WAER's @EzeirCameron was on the call for Gadsden's sixth catch of the game. pic.twitter.com/eoFTA5v0Ab— WAER Sports (@WAERSports) September 24, 2022
While the offense had its moments, it was Syracuse’s defense that constantly kept the Orange in front. SU held a talented UVA offense under 300 all purpose yards and spent a lot of time in the UVA backfield. Perhaps no play was bigger than Garrett Williams's 4th quarter interception. SU had just turned the ball over and it appeared Brennan Armstrong had a man open downfield, but Williams undercut the route to temporarily keep SU in front.
For Williams, play like this is expected: “Garrett’s been like that since the first day he stepped on campus,” Dino Babers said.
The game certainly wasn't perfect for Syracuse, but after four games, the Orange are 4-0. Syracuse now looks ahead to FCS opponent Wagner who travels to the dome next Saturday. The game starts at 5 with Countdown to Kickoff beginning at 4:30 on WAER.