SYRACUSE, N.Y (AP) Garrett Shrader threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, Daniel Villari threw for one and rushed for one, Damien Alford had two scores, and Syracuse became bowl eligible for the second straight season, defeating Wake Forest 35-31 Saturday.
With Wake Forest trailing 35-31 and headed for a potential game-winning score, Syracuse’s Jason Simmons intercepted Michael Kern at the 1-yard-line with two minutes remaining to secure the win.
The Orange win (6-6, 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) capped a week that saw the firing of coach Dina Babers after eight years at the helm. Tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile served as interim coach.
Syracuse had not gone to consecutive bowl games since 2012-13.
"It was a really tough week and they did a great job staying together; staying focused on the task at hand," Campanile said. “Everybody in a really difficult week managed to stay focused on the task at the hand, which was getting Syracuse football to a bowl game in back-to-back years. That's a pretty special accomplishment.”
Wake Forest (4-8, 1-8 ACC) ended its season in last place in the ACC. The Orange avoided a last-place finish with the victory.
Shrader, who took snaps along with running back LeQuint Allen and tight end Villari, connected on a 35-yard pass play with Alford midway through the first quarter and ran it in from the 1-yard line to give Syracuse a 14-7 lead with 10:59 to go in the second. Shrader also connected on a 13-yard pass play to Villari to give Syracuse a 28-17 lead and a 37-yard scoring pass to Umari Hatcher for a 35-25 advantage.
Campanile said he didn't know “until 2:07” (seven minutes after game time) how effective Shrader would be - particularl passing. Shrader has been nursing an injured throwing shoulder and has been severely limited.
“Honestly, he warmed up relatively well, but there were so many things he really had not done in practice and it was a little bit like, ‘Ol, he’s going to ramp it up on game day and see how that goes,' " Campanile said. He called Shrader’s performance, “off the charts.”
'"That's a real special performance,” Campanile said.
Shrader gave credit to Syracuse's training staff for getting him healthy enough to compete. He paid homage to Babers, saying his former coach was the reason he transferred to Syracuse and the favorite coach he has played for.
“It's been hectic. A lot of chaos initially, but a lot of peace at the same time because not a lot has changed,” Shrader said reflecting on the week. "It was a pretty smooth transition. Everything that he (Babers) instilled in us we kept."
Kern connected with Wesley Grimes on Grimes’s second touchdown on the day, a 9-yard score, to make it 35-31 with 7:20 left, but Syracuse held on.
“Disappointed with the result and obviously with our record this year, but our guys fought to the end. We came up a play short,” said Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson. “We certainly executed on offense today better than we have in a long time. We just had a really hard time getting a stop.
“We gave up a lot of big plays in the passing game. Other that one stop we didn't make them punt the entire game,” he said.
Shrader was 10 of 15 for 173 yards. He also gained 46 yards on the ground.
Allen rushed for a career-high 144 yards on 32 carries and passed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Syracuse gained 244 yards on the ground, 468 in all, and held the ball for 35 minutes.
“What it means is that my linemen came out and did a great job all season, not just today,” Allen said. “Putting up those numbers it shows.”
Kern was 17 of 24 for 261 yards and three touchdowns for Wake Forest.
MOVING ON UP:
Allen passed Jim Nance on SU's season rushing list.
Wake Forest had 382 total yards, easily topping its per game average, and the team's 31 points eclipsed its last-place output of 19.3 points a game, last in the ACC.
The loss marked the Demon Deacons’ worst 12-game season since going 3-9 in 2015 during coach Dave Clawson’s second years. They had won at least seven games every year since, outside of a nine-game COVID-19 schedule in 2020.
The Orange awaits its bowl destination, but more importantly, the naming of its next head coach. The transfer portal opens Dec. 4 and John Wildhack, Syracuse Director of Athletics, indicated he’d like to get that done before then.
Wake Forest looks to next year.
Syracuse waits for word on where it will play its 13th game.
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