Syracuse fends off upset-minded North Carolina in double overtime

SU football wins thriller in double OT

Syracuse needs just one more win for a bowl berth.
Published: October 20, 2018
Tommy DeVito
Redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito makes a throw over the head of a UNC defender.

Despite missing open-field tackles, piling up multiple turnovers, giving up big plays on special teams, and missing numerous opportunities on offense, the Syracuse Orange found a way to escape a close game against the North Carolina Tar Heels, 40 to 37, Saturday afternoon.

This thrilling win in double-overtime improves the Orange to 5-2 on the season and puts them back into the win column after losing their last two games prior to last week’s bye week. It had been a month since the Orange played in the Carrier Dome, and it was a much-needed homecoming.

Due to the Tar Heels scoring 20 unanswered points in the second half, Syracuse Head Coach Dino Babers decided to make a change at quarterback. Down seven late in the fourth quarter, redshirt-freshman Tommy DeVito stepped in and gave the Orange the push they needed to make a comeback.

“I just thought we needed a spark,” Babers said. “I just felt like we needed to do something different.”

Jamal Custis
Syracuse wide receiver Jamal Custis tries to break a tackle by a North Carolina defender Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome.

With less than two minutes remaining, DeVito launched a ball deep down the right sideline to wide receiver Nykeim Johnson for a game-tying 42-yard touchdown. DeVito used his arm strength to test the North Carolina defense downfield, which is something the Syracuse offense was hesitant to do the first three quarters. At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 27.

On the first possession in overtime, DeVito connected with wide receiver Jamal Custis for a 25-yard touchdown in the right corner of the end zone. In response, North Carolina quarterback Nathan Elliot, who had over 300 yards passing on the day, zipped the ball to wide receiver Beau Corrales for a nine-yard score to tie the game at 37.

At the beginning of double-overtime, the Tar Heels were forced to settle for a field goal, which gave DeVito and Syracuse the opportunity to go back out onto the field and end the game with a walk-off win.

With ice-cold blood flowing through his veins, DeVito launched the Orange to victory with a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ravian Pierce. DeVito was clutch when it mattered most and proved the spotlight was not too big for him.

“I have to prepare like I’m a starter and always be ready for any moment”, DeVito said.

Syracuse defenders force a Michael Carter fumble during SU's 40-37 victory over UNC Saturday in the Carrier Dome.

The bye week last week could not have come at a better time for the Orange. Syracuse got off to a hot start but then the season was beginning to spiral out of control after losing in the final seconds to Clemson and falling to Pittsburgh in overtime. Syracuse used the bye week to reevaluate and put them in the best possible position moving forward.

“I think they really gave great effort over the break, and I think a lot of that stuff we did in the break transferred over to the fourth quarter and overtime in that game, and I can’t be more proud of the way we reacted,” Babers said.

Syracuse players celebrate the double overtime catch by Ravian Pierce to win the game over UNC 40-37.

The culture of Syracuse football has changed under third-year head coach Dino Babers. The program has made major strides this season, already reaching a milestone this season with the first five-win campaign since 2013. Babers believes veteran leadership is a major reason for that improvement.

“Older guys teaching the younger guys what it’s all about, and how to fight, and how to struggle, how to scratch, and how to claw, and doing all that and not maybe getting the result you want,” Babers said.

By no means did Syracuse play the perfect game, but it’s safe to say the Orange got the result they wanted.

Next Saturday, the Orange face off against the 5-1 N.C. State Wolfpack in the Carrier Dome. The stakes are high as both teams are only one win away from becoming bowl eligible. North Carolina State is coming off its first loss of the season at the hands of Clemson.