Syracuse football brawls to the very end, beating Virginia 22-20

Syracuse football brawls to the very end, beating Virginia 22-20

Placekicker Andre Szmyt led the Orange to victory with a game winning field goal.
Published: September 24, 2022
Virginia v Syracuse
Andre Szmyt (91) slaps teammate Justin Barron's (23) hand after one of his 5 successful field goals on Friday night at the JMA Wireless Dome.

What looked like it was going to be a dominating win for Syracuse against Virginia turned into a backyard brawl Friday night in the JMA Wireless Dome. From the start, the Orange came out with a forceful effort and ultimately beat the Cavaliers 22-20.

On the opening kickoff, Syracuse wide receiver Trebor Pena had an incredible 57 yard return. The Orange were able to capitalize off the strong kick return with a 17 yard Garrett Shrader touchdown run.

Despite the slow start from Syracuse running back Sean Tucker in the first half, which included a fumble, he did pass Heisman winner Ernie Davis for 12th all time on the Syracuse rushing list. For the day, Tucker finished with 60 yards rushing on 21 carries. For the Orange to make a bowl game this year, they likely will need to get more production out of Tucker, who is more than capable of doing so.

Going into halftime, Syracuse led the Cavaliers 16-0. 

Virginia v Syracuse

Garrett Schrader (6) threads the needle through the UVA defense on Friday.

Virginia v Syracuse

Syracuse wide receiver Courtney Jackson runs past a Virginia defender on Friday.

The second half was when the Cavaliers put up a fight against the Orange. This started at the beginning of the third quarter when the Cavaliers orchestrated a 75 yard touchdown drive capped off by a Keytaon Thompson rushing touchdown. 

Less than 30 seconds later, Virginia scored again to cut the Orange lead to just three. A catalyst for the quick turnaround was due to a Pena fumble returning a kickoff. The fumble was created by Cavaliers’ Jonathan Horton, who delivered a vicious hit to Pena. 

Fans were clamoring for it to be called targeting, especially after Syracuse defensive back Justin Barron was ejected earlier from the game for targeting. That gave Virginia the ball at the Syracuse 13 yard line, leading to an eventual Perris Jones rushing touchdown. 

Virginia v Syracuse
Sean Tucker (34) is swarmed by multiple Virginia defenders on one of his carries on Friday night.

The game ended up coming down to the leg of senior placekicker Andre Szmyt, who was a perfect 5-5 on the day and ended up having the game winning field goal. 

Despite the interception, Shrader had a solid performance throwing for 277 yards. 107 of those yards were to wide receiver Oronde Gadsen II, who continues to produce at a high level after having the game winning touchdown against Purdue last week.

Syracuse defensive back Garrett Williams had himself a day. In the first half he caused a Virginia fumble. Most importantly, in the fourth quarter as Virginia was trying to execute a touchdown drive, Williams picked off Cavaliers’ Breenan Armstrong on the 20 yard line of the Orange. 

Williams, a highly ranked prospect who most likely will be drafted to the next level, remained humble when asked about his progression and what it meant for him to have the performance that he did with NFL scouts in attendance. 

There was rumored to be scouts from at least 20 teams in attendance at the Loud House. There were questions in the week about how Williams would fare against Virginia’s receivers who are significantly taller. It’s safe to say Williams did not have an issue going against the taller receivers.

“I knew that it was a big stage for me to be able to showcase my abilities and show the world who I really am,” Williams said. “I felt like last week people were doubting me and I think that was kind of stupid. But, I was able to show my abilities today on the highest stage.”

Virginia v Syracuse

Head coach Dino Babers instructs his team versus Virginia on Friday.

Virginia v Syracuse

SU's Alijah Clark (10) attempts to tackle UVA's Keytaon Thompson (99) during Syracuse's win over Virginia.

Unfortunately for the Orange, the win did not come without injuries to the defense. Defensive backs Ja’Had Carter and Alijah Clark and defensive lineman Terry Lockett all left the game due to injury. While the win was not pretty for the Orange, they are still undefeated, and that’s all that matters for head coach Dino Babers who described the feeling perfectly.

“We’re really fortunate to come out with the win, we’re excited about that,” Babers said. “The play was not perfect, that’s for sure. But the record is.”

The Orange will host Wagner (0-3) in the JMA Wireless Dome Saturday at 5 p.m. 

Virginia v Syracuse
Syracuse fans cheer in their team's victory over Virginia on Friday at the JMA Wireless Dome on Friday night.