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.

ACC, SEC reap benefits from transfers moving between leagues

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The plan wasn’t for Georgia Tech to lose top running back Jahmyr Gibbs as a transfer to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference. Yet the Atlantic Coast Conference school has found its share of help from the SEC, too, in the form of seven transfers.

It’s a common theme for schools in those leagues amid freer movement through the transfer portal: players shifting from one power conference to the other, often to stay close to home and within an overlapping Southern footprint.

“I think it is kind of a natural move,” said Virginia receiver Keytaon Thompson, who has played two seasons for the ACC’s Cavaliers after spending three seasons at Mississippi State in the SEC.

Gibbs offers a high-profile example for the upcoming season in his move from the Yellow Jackets to the Crimson Tide after ranking third in the Bowl Subdivision ranks by averaging better than 150 all-purpose yards per game.

He’s one of seven players to do so this year among 247sports’ Top 150 ranking of transfers for the upcoming season. That list includes:

Alabama receiver Tyler Harrell (from Louisville), Louisville running back Tiyon Evans (from Tennessee), Ole Miss defensive end Jared Ivey (from Georgia Tech), Miami running back Henry Parrish Jr. (from Ole Miss) and Kentucky receiver Tayvion Robinson (from Virginia Tech).

The movement has been fruitful for both leagues.

Last year’s Associated Press all-ACC football honors included SEC transfers in Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II (from Georgia) as defensive player of the year and North Carolina running back Ty Chandler (from Tennessee) as a second-team pick. On the SEC side, Georgia defensive back Derion Kendrick was a second-team selection after transferring from Clemson.

Florida State defensive back Jammie Robinson started his career at South Carolina in the SEC. He said he didn’t really see major differences in competition between the leagues after earning AP all-ACC second-team honors last year.

SEC teams “are going to ground and pound and run the ball down your throat,” Robinson said during the ACC’s preseason media days in Charlotte, North Carolina. “In the ACC it’s kind of different. They’re going to more spread and more (run-pass options) and stuff like that. When I got to the ACC, that’s how I was trying to better my man coverage skills.”

More broadly though, the leagues offer logical landing spots for players seeking to move closer to home.

That was a factor for quarterback Hendon Hooker as he left Virginia Tech after the 2020 season marred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, the Greensboro, North Carolina, native opted for another neighboring-state program in Tennessee – an example of why second-year Volunteers coach Josh Heupel called that regional footprint “extremely critical to us at all times.”

“I definitely had some options to go a little further away from home,” Hooker said during the SEC’s preseason media days in Atlanta. “Me being the family man I am, I would want my family to be at every game. So being four hours away from home is a blessing.”

Fourth-year Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins has an up-close view of the interleague movement from Atlanta in territory both leagues claim as their own.

While losing Gibbs and Ivey, the Yellow Jackets added defensive back Ahmari Harvey (Auburn) and offensive lineman Pierce Quick (Alabama) as midyear enrollees. In addition, Kentucky offensive lineman R.J. Adams and Auburn defensive back Eric Reed Jr. have joined the program.

“There’s a (base) about five, five-and-a-half-hour radius of your campus that you focus on in recruiting,” Collins said. “I think the same thing happens in the transfer portal as well, but then you expand that because they might have gone at a distance and now they want to come back home for whatever reason. I don’t think that’s too uncommon.”

It also goes back to those years-ago recruiting battles for North Carolina coach Mack Brown. The leagues have four overlapping states in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky. That creates plenty of battles for high school recruits as both leagues mine that fertile territory, and those ties linger when a player decides later to transfer.

“What I’m seeing more is (coaches) are really looking at guys they lose in recruiting, that they think they could’ve gotten because they were very interested,” Brown said. “And then when they leave their other school because they’re unhappy, they’re going to come back home.”

And no one seems to expect the moves to slow anytime soon.

Virginia names Clemson’s Tony Elliott as next head coach

Ken Ruinard/USA TODAY NETWORK
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Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is The Associated Press college football coach of the year after leading the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title in 17 years and a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Harbaugh is the first Michigan coach to win the AP Coach of the Year Award presented by Regions Bank, and the first from the Big Ten since Penn State’s Joe Paterno in 2005.

“It’s a tremendous reflection on the entire staff, players,” Harbaugh told the AP. “Everybody shares in it. A rising tide lifts all ships.”

He received 22 of 53 first-place votes and 103 points from a panel of AP Top 25 voters to finish ahead of Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, who had 16 first-place votes and 88 points.

Baylor’s Dave Aranda was third and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker was fourth. Georgia’s Kirby Smart was fifth with a first-place vote and Utah State’s Blake Anderson was sixth, receiving three first-place votes.

Alabama’s Nick Saban and Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson also received first-place votes.

Michigan is the first school to sweep the AP coach of the year in football and men’s basketball in the same calendar year since the football award was established in 1998. Juwan Howard won coach of the year in men’s basketball for the 2020-21 season.

Harbaugh came into his seventh season as coach of his alma mater on a hot seat after going 2-4 in the Big Ten’s abbreviated schedule in 2020. After his first losing season with Michigan, Harbaugh took a pay cut and had his buyout reduced, putting the school in better position to make a coaching change if this season didn’t go well.

Harbaugh also made staff changes on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason.

Everything came together for the Wolverines this season. They beat Ohio State to snap an eight-game losing streak in the rivalry and reached the Big Ten title game for the first time, where they routed Iowa.

While Harbaugh has chosen not to gloat about Michigan’s turnaround, when there were plenty of skeptics, his brother was not above it.

“He’s always been a great coach,” Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters. “And all those that want to pile on, especially some of the local media there, there you have it. Back in your face. That’s how I look at it. He’d never say that, but I’ll say it.”

No. 2 Michigan (12-1) faces No. 3 Georgia (12-1) in its first College Football Playoff appearance on Dec. 31 at the Orange Bowl.

“I love this team. I love this ’21 team,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve got a bounce in their step every day. They’ve got a smile on their face. They’ve worked incredibly hard.”

AP Coach of the Year

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan – 103 points (22 first-place votes).

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati – 88 (16).

Dave Aranda, Baylor -47 (5).

Mel Tucker, Michigan State – 22 (4).

Kirby Smart, Georgia – 13 (1).

Blake Anderson, Utah State – 11 (3).

Nick Saban, Alabama – 9 (1).

Dave Clawson, Wake Forest – 6 (1).

Jeff Traylor, UTSA – 6.

Pat Narduzzi, Pitt – 4.

Kyle Whittingham, Utah – 4.

Sam Pittman, Arkansas – 2.

Mike Houston, East Carolina – 1.

Billy Napier, Louisiana – 1.

Kalani Sitake, BYU – 1.