Orange defense steps up late in overtime

In a game that sported five lead changes in regulation, Syracuse was able to hold off Toledo in crunch time Saturday at the Carrier Dome. Kicker Ross Krautman made the game-winning 27-yard field goal in the first overtime to give the Orange a 33-30 win after the defense forced a turnover on the preceding possession.

After a slow start, Syracuse was able to battle back-and-fourth with Toledo despite facing a deficit for the majority of the game. Running back Antwon Bailey ran for over 100 yards and quarterback Ryan Nassib proved efficient again on the way to a win.

The running game slowed the tempo compared to the fast-paced Toledo offense, and it gave the Orange defense enough time to regroup before a late push. With less than one minute remaining in regulation and Syracuse winning by three points, Toledo had the ball in the red zone with a chance to win it. On third down, Quarterback Austin Dantin fired a completion to Bernard Reedy but he was corralled at the 3-yard line by a swarming SU defense. Ryan Casano tied the game and sent it to overtime with a 20-yard field goal.

On the first overtime possession, the Toledo offense went for the lead on the first play, but Dantin's pass was intercepted by Kevyn Scott in the end zone. Syracuse was conservative after the turnover, needing a score of any kind to claim victory. Bailey carried the ball five times in the possession to set up the game-winning kick by Krautman, who had four field goals on the afternoon.

Orange overcomes slow start

The Rockets jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a Casano field goal to cap the first possession of the game, eating up nearly the first 11 minutes of the game. The 22-play drive featured five conversions, including one on fourth-down. Toledo was able to get the ball back quickly after an errant shotgun snap from Orange center Macky MacPherson on the ensuing possession, recovered by the UT defense at the SU 30-yard line. Three plays later, backup running back Morgan Williams took a direct snap 22 yards for a score to extend the lead to 10-0. Starter Adonis Thomas suffered a broken arm on his first carry of the game.

The Orange offense got a spark on the ensuing kick return by Dorian Graham, who brought the ball to the Syracuse 45-yard line. Bailey and fellow RB Prince-Tyson Gulley then took over, which would become a common theme, accounting for 30 yards on just three carries during the drive. The efforts drew the Toledo defense in, and Nassib found tight end Nick Provo – who leaked out of pass-protection once the pocket broke down -- for an easy 25-yard touchdown.

"I was a decoy," Provo said after the game. Nassib said the chemistry between the two has grown enough to make a play like that possible. "The routes got jammed up (play-side), and he threw his guy (a pass-rusher) off of him." Nassib -- who finished 16 of 24 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns -- said. "We were lucky."

Toledo threatened to steal the momentum back on the ensuing kickoff, but Eric Page's return for a touchdown was nullified by a blatant block-in-the-back. The drive stalled after just five plays.

Syracuse was able to tie the game at 10 on a Krautman 33-yard field goal after Nassib engineered a 30-yard drive that began at the Toledo 46-yard line because of an unnecessary roughness penalty.

The Orange offense then drove 55 yards, mostly on the ground, before a questionable non-call on what looked like pass interference ended the effort at the Toledo 14. Krautman notched a 37-yard field goal to give Syracuse its first lead of the afternoon.

The Rockets were able to match the effort with a field goal on the final drive of the half, though Jeremiah Detmer was on for the 52-yard kick this time. He made the attempt -- the first of his career -- with room to spare.

Second-half dramatics

Both teams began the third quarter slowly offensively until the fourth possession of the half. Toledo went right back to Page on two of the first three plays of the series before turning to the zone-read option. Dantin gave the ball up twice, but on the third option look, he held the ball and found David Fluellen all alone for a 29-yard score.

"I was really wide open," Fluellen said. "I got the call from upstairs and they thought it was going to be a big play."

Syracuse got back on track offensively after another kick return – this time by Jeremiah Kobena. The drive appeared to be on the verge of stalling before Nassib connected with Jarrod West for 39-yards up the seam. On the next snap, Bailey scampered into the end zone from 20-yards out to tie the game at 20. The running game was emphasized all week after the team admitted it was pass-happy early in the season.

"We tried to come out and run the football," coach Doug Marrone said. Bailey and Gulley combined for 188 yards and a score on 38 carries.

"That's what we do," Bailey said. "We are a smash-mouth team."

The Orange used the run to set up play-action, and they were able to capitalize on a catch-and-run by Provo -- dragging a defender for most of the 26-yard pickup -- to open the fourth quarter; but the drive stalled inside the red zone. Krautman booted a third field goal through the uprights to provide SU with a 23-20 lead.

Page swung the momentum Toledo's way once again after gashing the Syracuse defense for 42 yards on the first play of the drive. He finished with 13 catches for a career-high 158 yards. Three plays later, Williams punched the ball in from 3-yards out to put the Rockets ahead yet again.

Syracuse faced a fourth-down on the ensuing drive, and Nassib hit David Stevens for the conversion with under three minutes remaining. Two plays later and under duress, Nassib floated a ball to Alec Lemon for an 18-yard touchdown. The wideout was single-covered because of Toledo's all-out blitz that nearly got there in time for a sack.

"It was an audible," Nassib said. "I knew the defense was coming with more players than we could block."

Toledo engineered a drive that nearly yielded a regulation win with time winding down, but the drive stalled at the 4-yard line. Casano tied the game and sent it into overtime with a 20-yard field goal.

In the extra session, Kevyn Scott made the play of the game by intercepting Dantin on the first play of the drive.

"Like a baby seeing candy," Scott -- who had a pair of interceptions in the season opener against Wake Forest -- said when asked what he did when he saw the ball in the air. The Orange put the ball in Bailey's hands to set up the winning kick from Krautman, who moved into ninth place in school history in career field goals made.

Notes

-Syracuse has never lost to Toledo. They are 3-0 all-time (1999, 2003, and 2011) in the series.

-After the last Syracuse touchdown (Nassib to Lemon), the point-after was reviewed. It initially seemed to be no-good, but it was called "good" by the officials. Replay suggested that it may not have been.

-Syracuse was without starting strong safety Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) and defensive end Chandler Jones (lower body injury). Siriki Diabate started ahead of usual middle linebacker Marquis Spruill because of an upper-body injury. He still saw third-down action and started the second half.

Toledo played without four defensive starters due to injury, including second-leading tackler Charles Rancifer. The game was considerably delayed in the third quarter when UT cornerback Desmond Marrow was injured after a head-to-head collision with Bailey. He was carried out on a stretcher, but X-rays came back negative soon after.

-DBs Keon Lyn (shoulder) and Ri'Shard Anderson (knee/ankle) were injured on consecutive plays in the second quarter, but Lyn stayed in despite noticeable pain. Anderson returned in the second half.

Toledo QB Terrance Owens, who played the majority of the team's last game, was not effective in limited snaps.

- Toledo's game-tying kick by Jeremiah Detmer in the second quarter was his first career attempt. The conversion was the second longest kick in school history.


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