[Almost] Upset: Syracuse Football comes close, fails to cap off win at No. 25 LSU
The Orange almost pulled it off.
Key word: Almost.
In a game where nobody -- literally nobody -- was giving Syracuse a shot to win, the Orange went out and made it a game.
However, Saturday night's road contest at No. 25 LSU began the way most believed it would.
Orange starting quarterback Eric Dungey, on the first offensive play of the game, threw an interception that was returned to the 1-yard-line.
That's when Derrius Guice leaped defenders on his way into the end zone, making it a quick 7-0 lead over the Orange.
Syracuse's offensive struggles continued in the first half, failing to convert on several key third downs in the opening half (8-of-19 for the game).
But a 42-yard field goal courtesy of Cole Murphy allowed the Orange to chip into the game, 7-3.
It would remain 7-3 until the tail end of the first half. That's when LSU's Danny Etling connected with Stephen Sullivan on a 43-yard touchdown reception.
The late score made it 14-3 at the half, in favor of the Tigers.
LSU continued the offensive fireworks in the second half. On the very first offensive play from scrimmage to begin the third quarter, the Tigers struck again.
Etling fired a strike to Drake Davis down the field, as Davis glided past the secondary on his way to an 87-yard touchdown reception.
It was 21-3 LSU at that point.
The Las Vegas oddsmakers were laughing their way to the bank, right?
That's when Dino Babers dove into the play book and created some fireworks of his own.
With the Orange driving down the field, Babers drew up some trickery. Dungey handed it off to Devin C. Butler, who worked out of trouble, only to lob it up for an open Ervin Philips in the end zone for the touchdown.
Syracuse cut into the deficit, and went even further than that.
Thanks to a terrific punt by Sterling Hofrichter, the Orange pinned the Tigers on their own 1-yard-line.
LSU decided to hand it off to begin the drive, which was met by a ferocious Parris Bennett, who not only met Darrel Williams at the line of scrimmage, but also was able to push him back into his own end zone, creating the safety and two points for the Orange in the process.
On top of that, Syracuse retained possession of the ball on the very next drive.
And that's when the Orange responded.
Dungey orchestrated a 10-play, 72-yard drive down the field, capping it off with a 14-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 28-19.
However, that's where some controversy would intervene. If Babers had elected to go for the 2-point conversion, and were successful, Syracuse would have only found itself trailing by a single possession at 28-20.
Instead, Babers went for the point-after, which made it a 9-point deficit and a two-possession game.
With seven seconds remaining in the third quarter, Babers was confident there was enough time in the fourth quarter to make a comeback and win it.
LSU put its star freshman quarterback into the game, Miles Brennan, early in the fourth quarter. Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron was quoted earlier in the week as saying the team would try to put Brennan in the game for meaningful snaps.
With a 9-point lead early in the fourth quarter, it was certainly a meaningful snap.
Brennan proceeded to throw an interception to Syracuse's Juwan Dowels, which gave the ball back to the Orange with plenty of time left.
Dungey, once again, drove the Orange down the field. The 13-play, 80-yard drive resulted in a 22-yard touchdown pass to Steve Ishmael, as he beat his defender in the back of the end zone.
At 28-26, Syracuse was back in the game.
With under six minutes remaining in the game, all the Orange needed was another defensive stop, coupled with a field goal to exit Death Valley with the win.
But in the end, that was not the case.
LSU ate up nearly four minutes off the clock, resulting in a DJ Chark, 20-yard touchdown run to end the game for good.
The Tigers had came out on top, 35-26, but it was a much closer game than the score would indicate.
Babers was authoritative in his post game comments afterward, stating that his team would not take pride in a moral victory.
And he's right.
Syracuse was supposed to have no shot in Saturday night's game at No. 25 LSU. They did have a shot. They played much better than expected. But a win is a win, while a loss is still a loss.
The Orange (2-2) will return to action Saturday, September 30 when it visits NC State for the ACC opener at 12:30 p.m.