FB : BY A THREAD: SU squeaks out 3-point win after blowing double-digit lead
NEW ORLEANS — As Tulane celebrated a game-tying touchdown with less than three minutes left, capping off a 17-point comeback, Ryan Nassib looked on calmly from the sideline.
Syracuse had been in this situation multiple times already this year. Three of SU’s first five games went to overtime. And despite some second-half struggles Saturday, the Orange quarterback stayed confident and had only one thing on his mind as he took the field for SU’s final drive.
‘It’s time to win,’ Nassib said. ‘It’s time to breathe and focus. It wasn’t our first rodeo. All we had to do is just move the ball, get that first first down and just keep chugging.’
In a game that turned completely in Tulane’s favor after halftime, Syracuse’s offense reawakened in the nick of time to pull out a 37-34 win over the Green Wave in front of 23,188 fans in the Louisiana Superdome. Kicker Ross Krautman’s 21-yard field goal as time expired gave SU a win and saved the Orange from what would have been an extremely disappointing loss. The Orange (4-2, 0-1 Big East) offense came out on fire in the first half, scoring on its first four drives, but Tulane (2-4, 1-1 Conference USA) torched the SU defense for more than 300 yards in the first two quarters to keep pace.
Tulane clawed back in a second half controlled by defense, but the Syracuse offense came back to life on its final two drives to salvage the win.
‘The biggest thought is always the win,’ SU head coach Doug Marrone said. ‘There’s no doubt about it. It’s winning. That’s it.’
The game was set up to be a shootout in the opening minutes. Tulane went 80 yards in eight plays to start the game, capped off by a 40-yard touchdown run by Green Wave running back Orleans Darkwa.
But it took just 16 seconds for Syracuse to answer. Freshman Jeremiah Kobena returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to the Tulane 5-yard line, and Antwon Bailey punched it in on the next play to knot the score 7-7.
From there, Syracuse took over for most of the first half, scoring at will on a Tulane defense that gave up 93 points in its previous two games. SU went on to build a 17-point lead on two separate occasions in the first half. Nassib threw two touchdowns and ran for another.
But Tulane refused to go away, and the SU defense couldn’t make a stop.
‘That is the one thing our kids said, they were going to refuse to lose tonight,’ Tulane head coach Bob Toledo said. ‘They weren’t going to give in to anything. It is like somebody trying to take away your prized possession. You’re going to fight until the bitter end.’
The Green Wave scored 10 points in the final three minutes of the first half to head into the locker room down 31-24. But the flow of the game changed completely after the break.
Syracuse’s offense stalled in the third quarter, picking up just 14 yards and no first downs. But after allowing 312 yards to Tulane in the first half, the Orange defense also held its ground, limiting the Green Wave to just a field goal in the third.
‘We stayed the same but just were more focused,’ cornerback Kevyn Scott said. ‘We got that 17-point lead and we just kind of relaxed. It was like we just took things for granted. We just focused in and locked in and played our game.’
Then came the fourth quarter resurgence by the Orange offense. SU moved the chains for the first time in the second half with nine minutes left on a Nassib completion to Van Chew. That sparked a long drive that resulted in a field goal to put SU up 34-27.
But as it had done throughout the game, Tulane answered quickly. SU cornerback Keon Lyn fell down on a deep pass down the left sideline, and Green Wave receiver Xavier Rush hauled in a 58-yard pass uncovered and trotted to the end zone to tie the game.
‘We got down early, but our team never gave up,’ Rush said. ‘We always thought we could come out here and win.’
But that set the stage for Nassib to lead the Orange on the game-winning drive that covered 66 yards on 12 plays and was aided by a pivotal personal foul penalty on Tulane.
Syracuse moved into field goal range and drained the clock, calling a timeout with two seconds left at the 4-yard line. Krautman drilled the 21-yard field goal as time expired.
‘We’re going home happy,’ Nassib said. ‘I’ve played this game long enough, and I’ve lost enough games to know that a win is not easy to come by.’
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