SNEAKING BY: Fake-field goal TD pass helps Syracuse past Villanova after Hunt’s ejection

 

SNEAKING BY: Fake-field goal TD pass helps Syracuse past Villanova after Hunt’s ejection

first_imgSyracuse’s punter threw the game’s most important pass. Its starting quarterback threw the game’s only punch. A converted lineman caught what stood as the game-winning touchdown.And the Orange (1-0) beat Villanova (0-1) 27-26 in double overtime in the Carrier Dome on Friday night to open its season. With Terrel Hunt ejected, Syracuse unable to keep the ball and Villanova unable to score with it, if the game belonged to anyone, it was the Wildcats and their quarterback, John Robertson.When the game ended, he trudged off the field. Syracuse players sprinted toward the SU marching band in celebration. Riley Dixon, the punter-turned-quarterback was in the swarm of relieved Orange. So was Syracuse tight end Kendall Moore, who caught the game-winning touchdown. Hunt was in the SU locker room, ready to congratulate the team he could only watch for the final 33:23, plus overtime, of play.SU director of athletics Daryl Gross, then Orange head coach Scott Shafer congratulated Robertson in front of what remained of the confused 41,189 in attendance. It was the strangest game the winning and debuting quarterback, Austin Wilson, had ever played in.“It’s not comparable,” he said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith 12 seconds left in the game, Wilson was relegated to a spectator. Villanova had driven down to the SU 8-yard line with the game tied at 17. Chris Gough’s field goal was 25 yards away from making Villanova the first Football Championship Subdivision team to beat Syracuse, reducing SU’s season opener to a defeat of historic proportions.But Gough missed it wide right. Villanova had given the game back.“Everybody got replenished and got an extra boost of life,” Moore said, “and we were ready to go.”SU had been going without Hunt, the man who was poised to finally lead the team as his own, since he punched Villanova’s Dillon Lucas in the face mask with 3:23 left in the second quarter. The VU linebacker caught Hunt with a helmet-to-helmet hit at the end of a quarterback run. Protests from both sides and a referees conference were the only pause between the play and Hunt’s ejection.Wilson took two practice snaps on the sideline, then the SU offense was his for the night.The redshirt freshman managed the offense, but he didn’t lead it to anything more than 11 completions, 89 yards and nine first downs. Robertson was the Villanova offense. SU could contain his receivers, but not him, not long enough to avoid the brink of embarrassment.The Orange only had the ball for 10:25 in the second half.“I’m mad because I wish we could’ve won that by a couple touchdowns,” Shafer said.But Shafer was victorious in his anger. He had asked Dixon if he felt comfortable running “Purple,” Syracuse’s fake-field goal set.With the Orange stalled out on Villanova’s goal line for the second consecutive overtime and the game tied at 20, SU made the call. Dixon caught the snap from Sam Rodgers, lifted it away from Ryan Norton and scrambled left, looking for Moore. He wasn’t open, but Dixon leapt and threw the ball anyway.Dixon barely remembers the play. He said he blacked out. Moore was clueless until he was clutch.“Well I ran my route and I knew I was covered,” Moore said. “And I seen Riley jump and I didn’t know what he was doing. I couldn’t really see the ball until it was about three inches from my face when I reached out and grabbed it.”Robertson replied one more time, gaining all 25 of Villanova’s yards in its half of the second overtime — five with his feet, 20 with his arm. But the Wildcats went for the game they had controlled but never broken.Instead of trying for a game-tying point-after attempt, they went for a two-point conversion. On a designed run for Robertson, the pocket collapsed, Robert Welsh brought him down. SU won.Shafer met a helmet-less Robertson at around the 30-yard line with players from either team on either side of them. They walked together for about 25 yards, Shafer congratulating the Villanova quarterback, telling him he’d turned in one of the best individual performances he’d ever seen.The Syracuse players fleeing the sideline and the game’s final play did so relieved. They had escaped.As SU celebrated, it was greeted by a rendition of the alma mater much quieter than the one played pregame and only slightly louder than the Carrier Dome crowd during the vast portions of the game that Villanova controlled.Said Shafer: “We just won a game, but I’m still so mad.” Comments Published on August 29, 2014 at 11:36 pm Contact Jacob: jmklinge@syr.edu | @Jacob_Klinger_ Related Stories Gallery: Syracuse takes on Villanova in Carrier Dome to open seasonGallery: Syracuse vs. Villanova pregameQ&A: Villanova linebacker Lucas discusses being punched by Huntcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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