Two quarterbacks who didn't win the starting job out of training camp. Two first-year head coaches. And two teams searching for their first conference win.
The result was as you might expect.
The Syracuse Orange (3-3, 1-1 ACC) escaped Carter-Finley Stadium with an ugly 24-10 win over the NC State Wolfpack (3-3, 0-3 ACC). It wasn't pretty by any means, but Syracuse came away with its first ACC win and its first win over NC State in team history.
Terrel Hunt went 10-20 with 74 passing yards and two interceptions. He ran 11 times for 92 yards and a touchdown. Hunt played an incredibly underwhelming game against the Wolfpack but, ultimately, it wasn't about him.
The Orange running game had 40 carries for 362 yards and three touchdowns. Hunt, Jerome Smith, and Prince-Tyson Gulley each had TDs. Smith ran 19 times for 140 yards. PTG went 132 yards on nine carries.
"We believe in taking our northern football down to the south," Shafer said.
Smith broke a scoreless tie on a 1 yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 39 yard reception by Ashton Broyld a few plays earlier.
Syracuse started at its own 20 with 7:05 left in the game and the scored tied, 10-10. Hunt passed to Smith for five yards. Smith then rushed 57 yards to the Wolfpack 18. PTG ran to the end zone on the next play. The offense really struggled throughout the game, but made enough plays in the fourth quarter to win.
On the next drive, it was PTG's 48 yard run, which set up a Hunt eight yard TD.
Syracuse benefited from a litany of mistakes by NC State. The Wolfpack passed up field goal attempts from 25 yards and 48 yards out. In the second quarter, backup QB Bryant Shirreffs overthrew his receiver at the Syracuse 8 yard line. NC State coach Dave Doeren bypassed a 48 yard attempt, in favor of a fake field goal pass. The Wolfpack caught the Orange off-guard, but placekicker Niklas Sade's pass sailed incomplete. Sade finally got a chance to attempt a field goal - from 51 yards out.
It wasn't even close.
The Orange had several mistakes of its own. SU committed eight penalties for 72 yards, many coming at inopportune moments. They slowed down Syracuse's inconsistent offense, helped the Wolfpack's disorganized offense, and even kept one NC State drive alive. The Orange even had a missed extra point conversion, following a bad snap.
On the defensive side, Syracuse played an excellent game, even if it was against bad competition. The Orange limited the Wolfpack rushing attack to 2.9 yard per carry. No player has rushed for 100 yards against SU all season. Durell Eskridge had an interception in the second quarter.
SU played well enough to beat NC State, but the Orange passing attack, as is, won't be enough to win many ACC games. Hunt now has under 100 yards passing and at least two interceptions in two straight games.
His first interception against the Wolfpack came on a Hail Mary-like-pass to Jarrod West. The ball floated five yards over West's head and Jack Tocho caught the pass. On the next drive, Hunt scrambled to his right and then tried to fit a pass to West in a tight window. Tocho was there - again - for the interception.
But Hunt doesn't deserve all of the blame. Other than Broyld, no Syracuse receiver had over 15 yards receiving.
All problems aside, Syracuse is now halfway to a bowl. The Orange will face Georgia Tech next Saturday at 12:30 in Atlanta.
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