SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Delone Carter gained a career-high 170 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns, Greg Paulus hit Marcus Sales for an 11-yard score and Syracuse beat Akron 28-14 on Saturday to snap a two-game losing streak.
Syracuse (3-4), which had lost two straight Big East games, avenged a 42-28 loss to the Zips a year ago in the Carrier Dome in the first meeting between the teams. It was the fifth straight loss for Akron (1-6).
Carter, who also had a career-high 30 carries, broke open a tight game with his third score. He broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage and raced 53 yards down the right side to the Akron 9, then scored two plays later on a 5-yard run.
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The victory kept Syracuse in the hunt to reach six wins and become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004.
Syracuse had seven turnovers against South Florida and one against West Virginia in its previous two games. Despite the advantage of a bye week, the giveaways continued against the Zips with a pair of lost fumbles in the first 10 minutes.
This time, the Orange escaped, thanks to a miscue by the Zips, stout running by Carter, a solid game from Paulus, and a strong second half by the defense, which registered five sacks and a big zero in the yards rushing column. Paulus finished 12 of 17 for 105 yards.
Patrick Nicely was 16 of 25 for 191 yards in his second start at quarterback for Akron and Dashan Miller set a school record with 191 yards on four kickoff returns. Andre Jones had three catches for 90 yards and one TD.
With the game tied at 14 midway through the third quarter, Akron punter John Stec was unable to field a low snap and barely got off a 6-yard kick from his own 22. Four plays later, Paulus hit Sales along the right side and tight end Mike Owen threw a block to free Sales for the go-ahead score.
Akron tied the game when Miller returned the second-half kickoff 98 yards for a score. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown for the Zips in two years.
Akron went three-and-out on its first five possessions of the second half, including consecutive drives late in the third and early in the fourth from inside its own 10.
The Zips finally registered their initial first down of the half when Nicely hit Jones for 46 yards late in the fourth quarter. That drive ended when Max Suter hit Nicely and forced a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Doug Hogue near midfield.
Syracuse’s second fumble came just one play after Akron tailback DeVoe Torrence fumbled, and the Zips capitalized.
Ryan Bartholomew, starting at center for Syracuse in place of the injured Jim McKenzie, snapped the ball over tailback Antwon Bailey’s head in the Orange’s spread formation and linebacker Miguel Graham recovered for Akron at the Syracuse 11. One play later, Nicely hit Jones on a crossing pattern in the back of the end zone for his first career touchdown pass.
Jones is the only player in the nation to start at three positions on offense and one on defense this year. He played three games at safety and one at cornerback while also seeing action at receiver.
The Orange tied it at 7 early in the second behind Carter, who gained 35 yards on five carries, scoring from the 7 with 12:20 left in the quarter. Paulus kept the drive alive with a pretty 20-yard completion on the run.
Paulus led the Orange to the go-ahead score late in the second. Mike Jones gained 17 yards on a run left, Paulus hit Sales on a flanker screen for a 13-yard gain, and Carter scored on a 2-yard run to put Syracuse up 14-7 with 4:14 left.
Jones sparked Akron with a nice catch-and-run for 43 yards to the Syracuse 9 after the kickoff, but a block-in-the-back penalty put the ball back at the 29 and Branko Rogovic missed left on a 29-yard field goal as time expired.
Akron got a big boost before the game started. Orange coach Doug Marrone suspended wideout Mike Williams for violating team rules. Williams was ranked sixth nationally with 118.7 receiving yards per game and tied for seventh with 7.5 receptions per game.