Syracuse’s second half scoring struggle continues in 38-14 loss to Wake Forest

SU comes up short against Wake Forest 38-14

Syracuse’s Cooper Lutz and Nykeim Johnson topped the leaderboard for the Orange offense in their battle against Wake Forest.
Published: October 31, 2020
Syracuse and Wake Forest on Saturday, Oct 31, 2020, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
Syracuse Orange running back Cooper Lutz (24) during a game against Wake Forest on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

With many missing pieces on Syracuse’s roster due to injuries, new names have had to step up for the Orange, and despite Saturday’s loss, several new players stepped up to fill the gaps. Still, Syracuse lost to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 38-14.

Syracuse running back Cooper Lutz excelled offensively for the Orange, topping the charts with 81 rushing yards on Saturday. Wide receiver Nykeim Johnson proved his worth for the second week in a row, putting the Orange on the board by scoring their first touchdown of the game. Johnson and Lutz also tied at 25 receiving yards a piece in the contest.

Head coach Dino Babers said he’s proud of the work Lutz has been putting in.

“I think the guy’s got some natural talent,” said Babers.

Taj Harris returned to play for the Orange after missing last week’s game against Clemson following the incident during Syracuse’s Oct. 17 loss against Liberty. But players like defensive back Trill Williams and running back Sean Tucker, who were expected to return in today’s game, were scratched last minute to get some extra time to heal and recuperate.

The first quarter brought heavy offense from Wake Forest. Demon Deacons running back Christian Beal-Smith was a force to be reckoned with as he barreled through the Syracuse defense, quickly bringing Wake Forest into the red zone. But the Syracuse defense put up a good front, keeping Wake Forest to a 33-yard field goal attempt. The Demon Deacons were up 3-0 after a successful kick from Nick Sciba.

Johnson put up a 25-yard return for the Orange on their first drive of the game, but Syracuse was unable to capitalize and the Demon Deacons’ offense was too much as Wake Forest running back Kenneth Walker III brought his team their first touchdown of the game with 3:37 left in the first quarter. Syracuse fell short, leaving the first quarter score at 10-0, Wake Forest.

Babers said that the penalties his team faced were a game-changer.

“The penalties are big,” said Babers. “It’s disappointing because without those penalties I believe those would have gotten in the end zone.”

The second quarter, however, saw a much stronger Syracuse team overall. The defense held Wake Forest to only one touchdown and the Orange offense picked up their first points of the game with 4:17 to go in the first half.

Lutz gained the first down for Syracuse and it was all Johnson from there. Johnson’s 21-yard rush ended in a touchdown for the Orange with 4:17 left in the second quarter. Kicker Andre Szmyt landed the extra point and Syracuse trailed only by three.

With 1:19 to go in the second, Walker broke free from the Syracuse defense once again and put the Deacons up, 17-7.

Syracuse and Wake Forest on Saturday, Oct 31, 2020, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
Syracuse Orange wide receiver Nykeim Johnson (4) goes after a under thrown ball during a game against Wake Forest. on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

Despite their energetic burst in the second quarter, Syracuse had a rough start to the second half, allowing back-to-back touchdowns seconds apart in the beginning of the third quarter.

Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman’s pass was received by Jaquarii Roberson who took the ball into the end zone on an 80-yard rush just 2:19 into the third quarter. Nine seconds later, the Demon Deacons intercepted Syracuse quarterback Rex Culpepper’s pass and Wake Forest cornerback Gavin Holmes brought it all the way down to the end zone for a 32-yard return. Sciba logged the extra point and Wake Forest went up, 31-7.

The Demon Deacons weren’t done. With just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Wake Forest, and Walker, grabbed their third rush touchdown of the game, launching the Deacons to 38-7.

Babers felt that this game was a letdown compared to how they played against Clemson.

“I’m not happy about it,” said Babers.

Johnson said he felt like more mistakes were made in this game compared to last week.

“Against Clemson, I gotta say we made a lot less mistakes.”

After Culpepper threw his second interception of the game, JaCobian Morgan entered the game to change up the pace. With 3:11 left in the fourth, Syracuse logged their second touchdown of the game when Morgan found tight end Luke Benson for the three-yard touchdown, bringing the final game score to 38-14, Wake Forest. Morgan’s touchdown pass marked the first of the freshman’s career.

In terms of changing that pace by switching quarterbacks, Johnson said he’s indifferent.

“Things happen in a game,” said Johnson. “At the end of the day when you’re catching footballs, you gotta catch them no matter who’s throwing them.” But Johnson was happy to see Morgan succeed.

“I’m proud of the young guy for going in the game and getting his first touchdown.”

When asked about putting Morgan in, Babers said that he stands by his decision to not put Morgan in sooner because the rookie didn’t have to face what Culpepper did.

“He went out there and did what he had to,” said Babers. “We’re happy. Glad he did it.”

Syracuse kicks off at home in the Carrier Dome again on Nov. 7 against Boston College at 2 p.m.

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is a magazine, news and online graduate student and sports lead producer for The NewsHouse.