Szmyt’s 5 field goals help Syracuse overcome Virginia 22-20

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Andre Szmyt knocked in five field goals, including the 31-yard game-winner with just over a minute left, and Syracuse held off Virginia’s second-half comeback to beat the Cavaliers 22-20 on Friday night.

Syracuse led 16-0 at halftime, but Virginia recorded three second-half touchdowns to take a 20-19 lead with six minutes remaining in the game. The Orange (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their first four for the first time since 2018 despite committing their first four turnovers of the season.

Brennan Armstrong threw for 138 yards and a 4-yard touchdown to Lavel Davis Jr. with 5:51 remaining for Virginia. Syracuse responded with a 62-yard drive to retake the lead on Szmyt’s final field goal. Virginia’s final drive resulted in a turnover on downs.

The matchup reunited two of Syacuse’s first-year assistants, Robert Anae and Jason Beck, with their old squad. Anae and Beck coached at Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC) for the past five seasons before joining Dino Babers‘ staff this offseason.

Syracuse started the game strong, with Trebor Pena returning the opening kickoff 57 yards into Virginia territory, and the Orange punching it in five plays later with Garrett Shrader‘s 17-yard rushing touchdown.

Virginia kicker Brendan Farrell missed first-quarter field goal attempts from 51 and 49 yards, respectively. The second miss came after the Cavaliers had taken over at the Orange’s 37-yard line following a Sean Tucker fumble. For the second straight week, Tucker was unable to find many openings, finishing with 60 yards rushing on 21 attempts.

UVA got back in the game early in the second half when Armstrong pitched to Thompson at the 1-yard line for a touchdown. The Cavaliers, trailing 16-6, wanted to attempt a 2-point conversion, but an illegal substitution penalty forced them to kick the extra point instead.

Trebor Pena fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, giving UVA possession 13 yards from the end zone. Perris Jones scored two plays later, cutting Syracuse’s lead to three, but the extra point was blocked by Jatius Greer.

Syracuse’s defense forced two turnovers, the first coming late in the first quarter when Armstrong kept a read option to the right side but ran into his own blocker. Syracuse capitalized by taking a 13-0 lead after a Szmyt field goal. He is 9 10 on field goal attempts this season.

TARGETING

Virginia linebacker Nick Jackson was ejected for targeting in the third quarter after a hit on Shrader. Jackson entered the game as the team’s leading tackler. Syracuse defensive back Justin Barron was also called for targeting earlier in the half. Alijah Clark, Terry Lockett and Ja’Had Carter all left the game with injuries for Syracuse.

THE TAKEAWAY

Virginia: The Cavaliers again struggled offensively, totaling 287 yards and less than 21 points for the third straight game. A year after ranking among the tops nationally in points per game, Armstrong and Virginia’s offense haven’t been able to match that success under first-year head coach Tony Elliott and offensive coordinator Desmond Kitchings.

Syracuse: Shrader rebounded from a sluggish performance against Purdue, finishing 22 for 33 for 277 passing yards. His go-to target was Oronde Gadsden II, who notched seven catches for 113 yards. Gadsden has emerged over recent games as a key slot receiver, and he recorded another career game after bringing in the game-winning touchdown last week.

UP NEXT

Virginia continues its two-game road trip at Duke on Saturday night.

Syracuse hosts Wagner on Saturday afternoon.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.