Syracuse beats Purdue 32-29 in instant gridiron classic
Syracuse beats Purdue 32-29 in instant classic
In what amounted to a heavyweight battle in the JMA Wireless Dome on Saturday, both ‘Cuse and Purdue threw and landed their fair share of haymakers. Syracuse ultimately won the battle, with six lead changes in the game’s entirety, beating the Boilermakers 32-29.
Many might have thought Purdue’s last power punch—a touchdown pass to tight end Payne Durham in the middle of the end zone with 51 seconds left—would have been enough to send the Orange to the canvas. However, the grit and hustle of SU’s team simply wouldn’t allow itself to be knocked out. On 4th & 1 with eight seconds left, quarterback Garrett Shrader, along with wide receiver Oronde Gadsden II, delivered the final knockout blow.
Gadsden II to the rescue
“It was kind of a post corner; that was the route that I had, but when I gave him a move at the top, he was so far inside and jumped inside,” Gadsen said. “So, I just ran straight to the corner, and I knew I wouldn’t have time. They were going to bring that pressure.”
And said pressure was brought, not only on that play, but the entire game. Shrader, who had his most inaccurate game of the year thus far (13-for-29 with 181 passing yards), looked shaky and uncomfortable for most of the day against an aggressive Purdue defense that ran mostly man coverage, which forced Shrader to make tough throws all game.
“They had a great game plan running the stuff they were running…I accredit our lack of success to me, not making routine plays and doing what I’m supposed to,” Shrader said. “We were able to overcome that, guys were starting to get open, and we just had to get settled into the game and we came out with a good result.”
Defense coming up big for the Orange
Despite Shrader’s struggles through the air, he was able to will his team into 32 points with his legs, both as a run threat (team-leading 83 rushing yards) and keeping countless plays alive with his mobility outside the pocket. It was a close 10-9 game going into the 4th quarter when suddenly fireworks went off with Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell hitting Durham for his first of his two 4th quarter touchdowns with 11:25 left in the game.
‘Cuse came back down on the next drive with a touchdown pass from Shrader to Gadsen II on the tight end trail route and impressive moves from the 6-foot-5 South Florida native after the catch to get in the end zone. SU took back the lead 18-15 with 8:17 left in the game.
Less than 30 seconds of game time later, O’Connell, under pressure from defensive end Jatius Geer, threw a pick-6 directly into the arms of defensive lineman Caleb Okechukwu. And just like that, the Orange scored 10 points in less than a minute.
That was a turning point in the game and an unusually bad play from O’Connell, a 6th year senior for Purdue and one of the Big Ten’s best QBs. Even Syracuse Head Coach Dino Babers was surprised to see him mess up in crunch time.
“That quarterback [Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell] did something I’ve never seen him do before. I’ve never seen him have a play like that on tape,” Babers said. “I’ve never seen him do that before and he’s a fantastic player, and I do think he’ll be an NFL player. We’re just fortunate that, if he’s going to have one play like that in his career, that it’s against us.”
Many eyebrows were raised in the performance of Sean Tucker, who may be less than pleased with his performance after a subpar game with 18 carries and only 42 rushing yards. However, Babers was able to look past Saturday’s performance and quantify what Tucker means to the team.
“I just thought that we have to be patient, and Tucker has to be patient. It’s frustrating not to see him do what he’s done because he’s very capable in what he can do,” Babers said. “It seems like every time we acted like we were going to give him the ball and did something else, good things happened to us.”
Despite the less-than-ideal performance from Tucker, just his presence on the field opens up opportunities for his teammates.
“Its a good day to be an Orange”
With a 10-point lead and a raucous Dome crowd, it didn’t look great for Purdue. Three plays later, Boilermakers wide receiver Charlie Jones was streaking down the SU sidelines to the tune of a 55-yard touchdown and deafening silence for the Orange faithful.
A stalled SU drive followed on the next series and the aforementioned touchdown to Durham with 51 seconds left, and things looked gloomy for the Orange. However, with what has quickly turned into a special team, a special play at the end was able to reign victory for Syracuse.
The Orange move to 3-0, the first time since 2018, and face Virginia (2-1) at 7 p.m. Friday for the leg of its four-game homestand in the Dome. In the words of Babers, “it’s a good day to be an Orange.”