A roughing-the-passer penalty on Tulane's Dezman Moses prolonged Syracuse's final offensive possession and the Orange's offense did the rest, running out the clock and setting up the decisive points as it capped its perfect record against nonconference opponents.
"We came out strong and got to that 17-point lead, but we weren't able to put them away," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. "I think they did a nice job coming back and made some big plays."
Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib completed 19 of 34 passes, including two touchdowns, and rushed for another score, helping thwart the Green Wave's comeback attempt. Running back Antwon Bailey also carried a heavy load, gaining 111 yards.
Tulane racked up 471 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Ryan Griffin's 320 yards passing and two touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to avoid a three-game losing streak.
A game dominated by offense in the first half gave way to a defensive struggle, and it was Syracuse's special teams that sent the Orange home with a victory.
"I'm shocked right now," Griffin said. "The guys did a great job of fighting. We came out to prove what kind of team we were and we did that, but fell short."
Tulane sent a strong message at the game's onset when running back Orleans Darkwa broke free from 40 yards away to cap an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the game's opening possession.
Syracuse answered just 16 seconds later when Antwon Bailey plunged into the end zone from 5 yards out, taking advantage of the field position provided by Jeremiah Kobena's 79-yard kickoff return.
The Orange's next possession took considerably longer but ended in fewer points, when they were forced to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Krautman after a 14-play, 69-yard drive stalled 12 yards shy of the end zone.
Neither offense was slowed in a frenetic second quarter that featured 38 combined points and 541 offensive yards.
Less than three minutes into the period, Syracuse's Nassib found receiver Dorian Graham in the corner of the end zone from 10 yards out to extend the Orange's lead to 17-7.
When Tulane's Albert Williams fumbled a lateral from receiver Wilson Van Hooser, it set Syracuse up at the 32-yard line. From there, the Orange needed just four plays to score on Nassib's 4-yard touchdown run.
Syracuse forced another turnover on the Green Wave's next possession when Dan Vaughn blindsided Griffin. The ball was jarred loose and Marquis Spruill recovered near midfield.
"We made some mistakes that basically cost us the football game," Tulane coach Bob Toledo said. "There are always a handful of plays that turn the course of the game."
Following the errors, Tulane's offense found its stride for the rest of the quarter. Darkwa's second touchdown came on a 1-yard run which capped a four play, 75-yard drive and trimmed Syracuse's advantage to 24-14.
Once again, the Orange answered in a hurry. Within three minutes Graham pounded in his second touchdown of the night from a yard away, pushing Syracuse's lead to 31-14.
However, Tulane didn't waste any time responding. On the second play of the ensuing possession, Griffin found receiver Xavier Rush streaking down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown pass.
"(Toledo) gave me a chance to make plays, and that's all I wanted was a chance to make plays," Rush said. "Hopefully, the chances keep coming and the outcome will be a win next time."
The half ended when Tulane's Cairo Santos connected on a 42-yard field goal as the clock expired, slicing the lead to 31-24.
Santos opened the scoring in the second half as well, when he converted a 49-yard field goal. However, Santos failed to tie the score on his next attempt when he missed from 45 yards away.
Krautman connected on his second field goal attempt to push Syracuse's lead to 34-27 and Tulane knotted the score when Rush scored his second touchdown on a 58-yard pass from Griffin, setting up the dramatic finish.