EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and went on to defeat Syracuse, 28-21, on Saturday at Rentschler Field. The Huskies improved to 4-5 overall and 2-2 in the BIG EAST. The Orange is now 5-4 and 1-3 in the conference.
Quarterback Scott McCummings scored both of Connecticut’s touchdowns in the final period, including the game-winner on a seven-yard run with 4:51 to play.
For Syracuse, quarterback Ryan Nassib was 24-for-39 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He was also intercepted twice. Wideout Alec Lemon and tight end Nick Provo were on the receiving end of several of Nassib’s throws. Lemon caught nine passes for a career-best 157 yards and a touchdown. Provo made seven receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown.
In the process, Provo broke Chris Gedney’s school season record for catches by a tight end. Provo has 39 catches this season, eclipsing Gedney’s previous mark of 34 receptions established in 1992.
Connecticut struck early, ignited by a 64-yard kickoff return by Nick Williams to open the game. Three plays later, quarterback Johnny McEntee teamed up with tight end John Delahunt on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
On Syracuse’s first possession, a muffed handoff by Nassib and Antwon Bailey resulted in a fumble that Connecticut recovered. On second down, Syracuse safety Philip Thomas made a leaping interception at the SU 10 to halt the threat. It was McEntee’s first interception in 180 pass attempts.
Thanks to a 63-yard run by Lyle McCombs, the Huskies were in scoring territory again at the Syracuse 24. McCummings mishandled a shotgun snap and Orange lineman Cory Boatman
landed on the loose ball. Unfortunately for Syracuse, Nassib was intercepted two plays later by Jerome Junior, but Connecticut was unable to take advantage.
The two squads continued to trade possessions by turnovers and punts until Syracuse got on the board.
The Orange knotted things at 7-7 with 1:48 left in the first half. Nassib fought off a Husky blitz to find Lemon on a slant pattern and the result was a 20-yard touchdown.
The Orange had a shot to grab the lead just before the break, but Ross Krautman
's 34-yard field goal was no good.
By halftime, the Orange had already forced a season-high five turnovers. Thomas, the BIG EAST leader in interceptions, had two, boosting his career total to nine to tie Tony Jones (1991-93) for 11th on SU’s career list. Defensive end Chandler Jones
forced two Connecticut fumbles in the opening half. In addition to Boatman's recovery, Brandon Sharpe
and Ri'Shard Anderson
pounced on Husky miscues.
In the second half, the Orange took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 10 plays. Nassib executed a deceptive fake end-around and found Provo for a six-yard touchdown.
The Huskies answered with a nine-play, 60-yard march finished off by a McCombs touchdown run to tie the score at 14-14.Syracuse came right back, driving 76 yards on 10 plays to paydirt. Dorian Graham
ran a reverse for the final seven yards and a 21-14 Orange lead.
In the fourth quarter, McCummings tied the game with 14:17 remaining on a 10-yard touchdown run. He scored again on a seven-yard rush with 4:51 to play to give the Huskies a 28-21 advantage. McCummings second touchdown was set up after Nassib was intercepted by Sio Moore at the Connecticut 38-yard line.
Syracuse picked up 25 yards on its final offensive series, but turned the ball over downs.
McCombs became the first back to run for more than 100 yards against the Orange this season. He gained 152 yards on 24 carries. McCummings contributed 59 yards on 13 attempts. McEntee was 8-of-14 passing for the Huskies for 113 yards. He threw one touchdown and was picked off twice.
In addition to his two interceptions, Thomas led the SU defense with 10 tackles.
Syracuse returns home on Friday, Nov. 11 for an 8 p.m. game against USF at the Carrier Dome. The contest will be televised live on ESPN2.