Syracuse, NY — The Syracuse Orange lose their fourth consecutive game after getting crushed by Wake Forest 38-14 at home.
The losses aren’t the only troubling trend forming for the Orange. QB Rex Culpepper turned the ball over at least three times for the second week in a row. Last week against Clemson, Culpepper threw three interceptions and lost one fumble. Against Wake Forest, Culpepper lost another fumble and got picked off twice. The nail in the coffin was 32-yard pick-six for the Demon Deacon defense.
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers stuck with the redshirt senior deep into the fourth quarter before finally subbing in true freshman QB JaCobian Morgan. Morgan served as the lone bright spot for the Orange, throwing his first career touchdown pass to TE Luke Benson a little more than three minutes left in the game.
Syracuse’s loss to Wake Forest also marked the second straight game the Orange defense allowed three rushing touchdowns to an opposing running back. Demon Deacon RB Kenneth Walker III added 80-yards on 13 carries to his three-touchdown performance.
Wake Forest scored on each of their first two drives, putting up ten points before Syracuse could muster a single first down. QB Sam Hartman maintained his reputation of skillfully managing the game and kept the Demon Deacons ahead of the sticks the entire game. Wake Forest’s red zone battering ram RB Kenneth Walker pounded in the game’s first touchdown from one-yard out. Costly penalties prevented the Orange offense from doing any damage in the game’s first fifteen minutes.
The second quarter started sluggish for both sides as neither team could get much going offensively early on. A rare Wake Forest three-and-out with about four minutes left in the half was followed up by a nice Nykeim Johnson punt return to the Demon Deacon 36-yard line. Four plays later, Johnson finished what he started by hauling in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Culpepper. The scoring connection brought the Orange within three points.
It looked like Syracuse was turning a corner after the defense forced another quick punt, but the Orange offense was unable to build off recent momentum. When Wake Forest got the ball back with less than three minutes left in the first half, they reeled off three consecutive first down plays before capping the efficient four-play drive with a dominant 20-yard touchdown run by Walker. Walker’s second scoring run of the game gave the Demon Deacons their 17-7 halftime lead.
Syracuse was lucky to head to locker room with the ten-point deficit. Culpepper’s fumble with about a minute remaining left the Demon Deacons little time to capitalize on the turnover.
The was no delay in action to start the second half, at least for Wake Forest. After Syracuse opened the third quarter with another three-and-out, poor tackling and Hartman’s mobility burned the ‘Cuse defense again. Hartman was able to roll out of trouble and find WR Jaquarri Robeson all alone downfield for one of the easier 80-yard touchdowns you’ll see. One scrimmage play later, Culpepper gifted the Demon Deacons with their first defensive score. The 32-yard pick six by CB Gavin Holmes gave Wake Forest 14 second half points in less than three minutes.
The three score lead allowed Wake Forest to take their time on their next drive. The ten-play, 71-yard march still ended with the same result. Walker put the finishing touches on his hat trick and on the game with his third rushing touchdown.
The next time Orange fans had a reason to cheer, the game was already out of reach. Babers finally pulled the plug on Culpepper and brought in true freshman QB JaCobian Morgan. Morgan’s outing was night and day compared to Culpepper’s. The 6’4” youngster completed all seven of his passing attempts for 57-yards, throwing one touchdown.
Syracuse falls to 1-5 in the ACC and 1-6 overall.