SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Garrett Shrader hit Oronde Gadsden II with a pair of touchdown passes, Sean Tucker scored on a 25-yard run late, and No. 18 Syracuse beat No. 15 North Carolina State 24-9 to remain unbeaten and become eligible for the postseason.
Syracuse (6-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) started a season with six wins for just the third time since 1935, taking advantage of the absence of the Wolfpack’s injured star quarterback, Devin Leary. Hurt last week in a win over Florida State, Leary was declared out for the rest of the season before the game. The preseason conference player of the year suffered a torn pectoral muscle and will undergo surgery next week in Florida. He’s expected to make a full recovery.
The Orange took the opening kickoff and scored in short fashion, driving 65 yards in five plays in just 2:04. Tucker’s 38-yard run set up Shrader’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Gadsden, his fourth scoring catch of the season.
North Carolina State (5-2, 1-2), with Charleston Southern graduate transfer Jack Chambers making his first start at quarterback, struggled on offense. Syracuse outgained N.C. State 113-55 in the first half and the Orange’s 10-3 lead at the break almost seemed too much to overcome in front of a raucous sellout crowd in the newly renamed JMA Wireless Dome.
Still, Chambers got the Wolfpack rolling on the first possession of the second half. He hit Christopher Toudle for 21 yards on a third-and-10 play and an 8-yard completion to Thayer Thomas moved the ball to the Syracuse 12. But a bad snap and a false start penalty on consecutive plays forced the Wolfpack to settle for Christopher Dunn‘s 22-yard field goal.
Shrader’s 17-yard scoring pass to Gadsden late in the third boosted the Syracuse lead to 17-6.
The Wolfpack couldn’t answer as Chambers, who had moved the team to the Orange 8-yard line, was sacked leading to a third field goal.
Tucker’s touchdown run came with just over 2 minutes left to ice the game.
Shrader was 16-of-25 passing for 206 yards and rushed for 85.
Chambers finished 18-of-29 passing for 160 yards, rushed for 68 yards on 19 carries and was sacked three times. The Wolfpack were held to 95 yards rushing a week after netting a season-high 182 and finished with 255 total yards.
The Orange entered the game allowing 14 points and 271.6 yards per game, just ahead of the second-place Wolfpack (15.7 and 297.8). N.C. State’s defense kept the Wolfpack in this one for a while, intercepting Shrader on consecutive possessions in the second quarter, but could not hold up throughout as they allowed 389 yards to the Orange.
RED ZONE WARRIORS
Syracuse entered the game having scored on 23 of 24 trips in the red zone. But with Syracuse poised to take a 17-3 lead late in the second quarter, Shrader suffered his second interception of the season when Tanner Ingle picked him off in the end zone after Syracuse had driven to N.C. State 14. It was the 10th interception of the season for the Wolfpack defense and it rose to the occasion again the next time Syracuse had the ball. Aydan White picked off a Shrader throw along the right sideline deep in N.C. State territory to keep the score 10-3 at halftime.
Syracuse moved up four spots during its bye week, its three victories over Power Five teams a factor in its rise, and likely will move a bit higher.
RING OF HONOR
Syracuse honored three of its greatest players during halftime. Running backs Jim Brown, Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little, who each wore the Orange’s famed No. 44, were enshrined in the school’s Ring of Honor. Tucker, who finished with 98 yards rushing on 14 carries, moved past Little for sixth on the school’s all-time rushing list. Little, who died last year, had 2,704.
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack have a bye next week, which will give coach Dave Doeren time to make adjustments to his offense with the loss of Leary.
Syracuse: The Orange have only finished with a winning record once under Dino Babers – 10-3 in 2018 – since he took over prior to the 2016 season. Notching its sixth win removes any doubt about the postseason. Last year’s team finished 5-7 after losing its final three games. Syracuse had lost a key player in each of the first five games and standout defensive back Garrett Williams was hurt in the second quarter and was helped off the field. The Syracuse defense has given up more than 20 points only once so far this season.
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack have a bye before hosting Virginia Tech on Oct. 27.
Syracuse: The Orange are at No. 4 Clemson.