Wake Forest sputters when Price goes down
It all seemed so easy for Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price as he picked apart the Syracuse defense.
There were the touchdown passes of 60 and 22 yards to Chris Givens and a crushing 16-yard score on third-and-goal to Michael Campanero. But a first-down completion to Danny Dembry at the Syracuse 2 early in the fourth quarter was his last, and the Demon Deacons fell in overtime, 36-29, on Thursday night after leading by 15 early in the fourth quarter.
''It's disappointing,'' said Price, who was 18 of 31 for 289 yards. ''You don't want to end the game like that. But we're going to bounce back.''
The clutch completion to Dembry was nullified by a holding penalty that sent Price to the sidelines with an injury. He never returned.
''I tried to get back in there,'' said Price, who had his helmet on and was running on the sideline in hopes of returning. ''The doctors said I'd be all right, but the coaches said it's a long season and there's no point in further hurting yourself.''
The holding call couldn't have been costlier. It allowed Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones to burst through and hit Price, who went to the turf for several minutes before being helped off.
''My coaches always tell me, `If you feel like you're being held, just run and the refs will call it,' '' Jones said. ''I was running, I was wrapping around, and he had to let me go, and once he let me go with all that momentum I just flew into the quarterback's legs. I hope he's all right.
''When the quarterback went down, I felt like it was our time to pick it up a notch.''
Van Chew made a diving 4-yard touchdown catch in the left flat at the goal line on the first series of overtime for the winning score in the season-opener for both teams.
''I saw the ball when it left Ryan's hands. I knew it was a floater, so I knew I had time to run over there and get it,'' said Chew, whose 2-point conversion catch had tied the game at 29-all with 7:07 remaining. ''When I was probably 3 yards away from it, I was like, I have a chance at the ball.''
''I was trying not to get a pick,'' Nassib added, smiling broadly. ''So I just threw it where only Van could get it. He makes those plays look easy.''
The Demon Deacons got the ball one last time, but the Syracuse defense forced a fourth-down incompletion from the 19 from Ted Stachitas to Givens in the right corner of the end zone.
''We definitely wasted some opportunities offensively,'' Price said. ''We just didn't produce. We have to capitalize on our opportunities.''
The Syracuse defense, which lost its heart with the graduation of linebackers Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue, missed too many tackles and never mounted any kind of pressure on Price, and he repeatedly made them pay. Price had 12 completions of 13 yards or more.
If not for a missed extra point by Jimmy Newman in the final minute of the third quarter, the first miss of his career, Wake might have been celebrating.
''We had great opportunities, great field position,'' head coach Jim Grobe said. ''Just the little things in the kicking game and a failure to convert when we had great field position really hurt.''
Kevyn Scott appeared to secure the victory for Syracuse when he made a diving interception over the middle at the Wake Forest 32 with just over 5 minutes remaining and the game tied at 29-all. But Ross Krautman, who had made a school-record 16 straight field goals, had his 32-yard attempt blocked by Kyle Wilber with just under 3 minutes to go in regulation.
It was a breakthrough of sorts for the Orange. Syracuse's last win over a Football Bowl Subdivision team in the Carrier Dome was a 31-13 upset of Rutgers in November 2009. Syracuse was 0-4 last season against FBS teams in the Dome and hasn't had a winning season overall at home since it went 4-1 in 2004.
Wake Forest, which lost its starting quarterback Price to an injury early in the fourth quarter, couldn't mount a threat behind backup Ted Stachitas. Price was 18 of 31 for 289 yards and hit Chris Givens on scores of 60 and 22 yards, and had a pretty 16-yard TD on a third-and-goal play to Camapanaro.
''We definitely got a little flat at the end and gave them some momentum, gave them the opportunity to get back in the game,'' Price said. ''I was really comfortable with what we were doing offensively.''
After Jimmy Newman's 40-yard field goal gave Wake Forest a 29-14 lead with 11:02 left, Syracuse's Antwon Bailey scored on a 53-yard run around the left side and quarterback Ryan Nassib hit fullback Adam Harris for a 2-yard score with 8:26 left.
It was a nice reprieve for Bailey, who had lost a fumble that led to Newman's third field goal of the game.
''I felt like I had kind of let my team down with the fumble,'' said Bailey, who had 114 yards on 25 carries. ''The biggest thing in football is to have a short memory, and that's what I was able to do.''
The defense was supposed to be the weak link for the Orange with a veteran offense returning. It was until the end, and so was the offense until it finally got untracked late against Wake's 3-4 spread.
''We started clicking,'' said Nassib, who was 12 of 20 for 85 yards passing through three quarters and finished 20 of 28 for 178. ''We realized we had to start making plays. We were able to keep Wake Forest on its heels.''
The Orange offense finally got going when Nassib hit tight end Nick Provo over the middle at the Wake Forest 15. Provo broke a tackle by linebacker Riley Haynes and rumbled into the end zone for a 7-6 lead with 9:29 left in the first half.
The Demon Deacons scored again on their final possession of the half when the Orange were unable to stop a third-and-goal play from the 16 and just over 2 minutes to play.
Price ignored the bad snap on the previous play that had resulted in a 13-yard loss and hit Camapanaro in the right corner of the end zone behind a stumbling strong safety Shamarko Thomas, and Wake Forest went to the locker room with a 20-7 lead.
In the first half, Syracuse gained just 52 yards on 22 plays offensively and didn't register a first down until 11 minutes remained in the first half. And its defense was torched for 258 yards on 45 plays.
Syracuse closed to 20-14 on Bailey's 1-yard run with 5:33 left in the third. The Orange capitalized on a roughing-the-passer penalty against linebacker Joey Ehrmann on a third-down incompletion from the Wake Forest 11. Ehrmann's father probably had a nice view of the infraction - he played for Syracuse in the early 1970s and was signing books on Wednesday night at a local theater.
Undaunted, after converting a fourth-and-1, Price hit Campanaro over the middle for 18 yards. Givens then scored on a 22-yard catch-and-run on the next play, easily breaking a weak tackle attempt by Kevyn Scott in the left flat and scampering untouched down the sideline for a 26-14 lead with 20 seconds left in the third.
Syracuse finished last season by gaining nearly 500 yards offensively in a 36-34 victory over Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. The team trotted the trophy out at halftime, but on this night that triumph seemed a distant memory until the frantic finish.