SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Wake Forest’s dreams of a double-digit win season were snatched from its grasp in a 39-30 loss to Syracuse in overtime on Saturday at The Dome.
Kendall Hinton caught a screen pass and was stripped on second-and-goal, with Trill Williams returning it for a touchdown to rub salt into the wound for the Deacons (8-4), who battled back from an 11-point halftime deficit to force overtime.
Andre Szmyt’s 40-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime proved to be the game-winning score.
Szmyt’s 49-yard field goal with 44 seconds left put Syracuse (5-7) ahead, and then the Deacons went 50 yards — with Steve Claude coming up with catches of 15 and 14 yards, and Hinton with three catches for 22 yards — to put Nick Sciba in position to tie the game with a 43-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.
Which he did, making a kick going the same way as he missed one earlier in the game.
Four first-half turnovers put the Deacons behind, and playing catch-up meant turning to Sam Hartman and Donavon Greene — both of them taking redshirts this season and playing in their third games — to create some second-half magic.
Hartman passed for 350 yards in relief of Jamie Newman, who was injured in the first half.
The Deacons had a swift response to a whatever-can-go-wrong type of first half, as Cade Carney raced into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the second half. That sliced Syracuse’s lead to 17-13.
The Deacons then stuffed Syracuse on three straight runs from the 1-yard line and the Orange settled for a field goal.
On the next play, Hartman connected with Greene on a slant off of an RPO and the freshman from Mount Airy went 75 yards for a touchdown — the first of his career.
The teams were knotted at 20-20 until Moe Neal’s 13-yard touchdown run up the middle with 8:29 left.
The Deacons responded with Hartman’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Hinton on fourth-and-goal — the second fourth-down conversion of the drive — to tie the game at 27-27 with 4:12 left.
That only set the stage for the final-minute drama and overtime theater.
Wake Forest was fortunate to only be down 17-6 at halftime.
The Deacons actually scored first, with Sciba connecting from 43 yards on their first possession. That was after a game-opening three-and-out, when things were actually moving smoothly for Wake Forest.
Wake Forest committed four turnovers in the first half — two of them by Newman in a span of seven plays and two of them interceptions thrown by Hartman. One of the interceptions was in Syracuse’s end zone.
It was all downhill until the last minute of the first half, when Hartman led a drive to Syracuse’s 27-yard line and Sciba connected from 45 yards on the final play of the half.
In between Sciba’s kicks, which put him at 34 straight and extended his NCAA record, Syracuse scored 17 points. The first came at the end of a 65-yard drive, capped by Trishton Jackson’s 12-yard touchdown catch.
Sciba’s streak ended when he missed a 48-yarder in the fourth quarter. It was from that far only after back-to-back false starts.
That drive accounted for more than one-third of Syracuse’s 181 yards in the first half. The Orange benefited from short fields for the other scores.
Another chapter on injuries was added to this season for Wake Forest, which lost Newman, right guard Nate Gilliam, safety Nasir Greer and Kenneth Dicks III to injuries in the first half.
One wild sequence of the first quarter saw three turnovers in a seven-play span. Newman was picked off by Andre Cisco, and then on third-and-2 Syracuse’s Clayton Welch was intercepted by Manny Walker. Three plays after that, Newman fumbled while trying to scramble and gave Syracuse the ball at the Deacons’ 13, which led to a short field goal.
Syracuse’s other points of the first half came after a failed fourth-down attempt by Wake Forest, which gave the Orange the ball at its 44. Welch threw a few bubble screens early on that possession, and then with Wake Forest’s defenders cheating toward the line of scrimmage, Welch fired to a wide-open Luke Benson for a 29-yard touchdown.
Syracuse was mostly without its starting quarterback, Tommy DeVito, who was unable to play after a lineman stepped on his foot and injured him during a practice in the past week. Welch started in his place, having completed 15 of 32 passes in his career.