It wasn't pretty, but mission accomplished for Virginia football. For the first time since 2012, the Cavaliers rallied after trailing for three quarters on Saturday, after beating Syracuse 44-38 in triple overtime. Jordan Ellis ran in the 4-yard touchdown that secured the win for the Wahoos.
Things did not start well for either offense. The 'Hoos only amounted 19-yards on seven plays in the first quarter - not recording a first down at all. Virginia defensive end Kwontie Moore gave the offense an opportunity to create momentum, when he recoverd his second fumble in two games, but the offense simply answered with a three-and-out.
The Cuse offense moved the ball better in the first quarter, however, made plenty of errors to set them back, while the UVa defense also picked things up with a goal line stand that kept the Orange at bay.
In the second quarter, things picked up. The Cavaliers began the quarter with their third three-and-out of the game, while the Orange missed a 48-yard field goal. It was the Syracuse defense who broke the deadlock. Two plays after the Cavs recorded their first, first down of the game - a Matt Johns 20-yard pass to Canaan Severin - Taquan Mizzell fumbled the ball and Antwan Cordy scooped it up and scored the 44-yard touchdown.
The Cavalier offense responded quickly. In the best drive the Virginia offense has had in the last few games, the 'Hoos put together a 11 play, 75 yard drive that was capped off by a Mizzell 11-yard touchdown. That drive also knocked off 5:13 off the clock. Things then escalated quickly in the second quarter. Mike Moore sacked Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey, forcing a fumble that was scooped up by Will Wahee for the 32-yard touchdown. In just seven minutes, the Cavs go from being down 7-0 to being up 14-7. But the lead was short lived.
The Orange were not to be outdone. On 4th and 3, Riley Dixon did it again for Cuse, the punter faked the punt and ran for the 15-yard first down. A pass interference is then called on the UVa defense, putting Cuse on Virginia's 15-yard line. Scott Shaffer's men made it count, with Jordan Fredericks capping a 11 play, 76-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown. But the action didn't stop. Not only did Johns intercept the ball, but eight seconds after the pick, Dungey found a wide open gap, hurdled Quin Blanding and scored the 26-yard touchdown. The Orange took a 21-14 lead into the locker room, and the 39,223 fans at Scott Stadium sent the Cavs to the tunnel in a sea of boos.
The Virginia offense did not fare better in the third quarter. On third-and-seven, the UVa defense was called for pass interference and Cuse made the best of it. Syracuse settled for a 22-yard field goal, after keeping the ball for just under seven minutes.
But the 'Hoos remained alive in the fourth quarter. Facing third-and-ten, Johns found T.J. Thorpe fror a 22-yard completion. Johns and company then marched down the field and found the end zone with a two-yard touchdown catch from Charlie Hopkins.
With time ticking away, Jon Tenuta's men did what they had to do and forced the Orange to punt, sending on the Cavalier offense. With the 'Hoos down by three, Johns went 9 of 14 for 77-yards to help the Cavs land in field goal range. Then Ian Frye booted a 25-yard field goal to send the game into overtime [this 19-play scoring drive was the second-longest scoring drive in school history].
In over time, Syracuse did not take long to pick up a score. Dungey found Phillips for the 7-yard touchdown to put the Orange up by seven. Zach Bradshaw was also called for targeting in the aftermath of that score. He was not only ejected, but the Cavs had to start their drive near midfield. No problem for the Johns, Severin team. Johns found a falling Severin for the 36-yard touchdown, and the game was tied back up at 31.
Virginia did not wait to get on top once again, Mizzell ran the ball 13-yards to the house to take the lead once again, however, UVA offensive tackle Eric Smith was called for unsportsmanlike behavior, and Cuse received great field position on the ensuing drive.The Orange took every opportunity. Starting from UVA's 12-yard line, Dungey just needed one pass to connect to Steve Ishmael for the 12-yard touchdown, and the game was knotted up at 38.
But then the Cavalier defense stepped up with a huge stop in over time to set up Ellis' run for the win.
The Cavs now move to 2-4 on the year. The Wahoos will now face North Carolina on Saturday in Chapel Hill. The 'Hoos will be without Bradshaw for the first half of that game, since he was ejected against Syracuse.