SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse showed signs at different points in the first half. They forced a fumble deep in Florida State territory, but could not capitalize. On their first offensive possession, Austin Wilson threw an interception in the red zone in the first half. A.J. Long led two promising drives that ended in one total field goal. He threw a pick in the red zone in the second half.
Wilson left the game in the second half with an upper body injury and did not return.
The Seminoles were clearly the more talented team, and that showed right from the start. Jameis Winston led a seven play, 80-yard drive in the first four minutes of the game to put the Orange on their heals right away. But Syracuse fought hard throughout Saturday afternoon's contest, and gained momentum on several occasions. They were a few better executed plays away from really putting pressure on FSU and making this a game down to the end.
"Beating the number one team in the country is a very difficult task," head coach Scott Shafer said after the game. "I really believed that we could beat this team and we didn't get that done today. I saw some good things that were encouraging."
The Orange offense had trouble in the red zone again, struggling to punch the ball into the end zone. Conversely, the 'Noles offense moved the ball at will against the Syracuse defense, averaging nearly seven yards per play on the afternoon. Winston threw for over 300-yards and Florida State ran for over 150 on the afternoon.
On the positive side of things for the Syracuse D, they forced two turnovers and nearly had a couple more with dropped interceptions.
"We need to do a good job understanding just how important it is that when we have opportunities that we have to make them," Shafer said. "We had a couple dropped interceptions today, and I always tell the kids that interceptions can change games."
Florida State scored touchdowns on each drive following the dropped interceptions.
But Florida State again asserted its dominance in the second half as the defense forced a three-and-out and they subsequently marched down the field for a quick score to cut the lead to 31-6.
Syracuse did answer with a pretty touch pass from freshman A.J. Long to fellow freshman Steve Ishmael for a 22-yard touchdown. It was the first of each player's career. The Orange attempted to get back into the game with a fumble recovery deep in 'Noles territory, but Long threw an interception two plays later, Syracuse's second in the red zone.
Long and Ishmael did hook up on a 35-yard score in the fourth quarter to narrow the margin, but Syracuse could never close the gap to a two score or closer contest. Long finished 16-27 for 167-yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ishmael had three catches for 93-yards and two scores.
"A.J. was just the way I thought he would be," Shafer said. "He really loves to play the game. He's really fun to be around out there. There's never a sense that he's tightening up or anything. But I was really encouraged by the way he played. Did he make mistakes? Yes. But all in all, given the opportunity, baptized by fire against the number one team in the country, I thought the kid did a pretty damn good job."
Syracuse fell 38-20 to Florida State, falling to 2-4 on the season. There was plenty to be encouraged about in their performance. But for now, a huge game in Syracuse's bowl hopes looms next week. The Orange face Wake Forest next week on the road.
"We came out here and coach Shafe preached nothing to lose and just have fun," Ishmael said. "Go out there and do what you do best and that's what we did. We had a clear chance to beat this team. But we're just moving on to the second half of the season and beating Wake Forest and going to a bowl game."