Nov 25, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange wide receiver Damien Alford (5) runs into the end zone for a touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the second half at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Syracuse dismisses top WR Damien Alford

Syracuse has dismissed leading receiver Damien Alford from the team, ESPN reported Monday.

The school confirmed to Syracuse.com that Alford was no longer with the program. Alford will be allowed to continue academically this semester, according to the school spokesperson.

No reason was given for the dismissal.

Syracuse hired Fran Brown as its new head coach in November.

Alford led the Orange with 33 catches for 610 yards this past season, tying for the team lead with three receiving touchdowns in 13 games.

Alford has 67 catches for 1,291 yards and seven TDs in four seasons at Syracuse.

–Field Level Media

Nov 25, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Garrett Schrader (6) drops back to pass against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the first half at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Garrett Shrader shines as Syracuse tops Wake Forest

Garrett Shrader had three touchdown passes and a rushing score Saturday as Syracuse topped visiting Wake Forest 35-31 in the regular-season finale for both Atlantic Coast Conference teams.

In its first game since firing coach Dino Babers, Syracuse (6-6, 2-6 ACC) gained bowl eligibility under the guidance of interim coach Nunzio Campanile. Jason Simmons Jr. intercepted Demon Deacons quarterback Michael Kern in the end zone with two minutes left to essentially clinch the victory.

Shrader finished 10 of 15 for 173 yards with 46 more yards on the ground. Orange tight end Dan Villari caught a touchdown and passed for a score, while Damien Alford had 126 receiving yards and caught two TDs and LeQuint Allen ran for 144 yards.

Kern went 17 of 24 for 261 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for Wake Forest (4-8, 1-7). Taylor Morin caught seven passes for 140 yards, while Wesley Grimes had two TD grabs.

The Orange opened the scoring midway through the first quarter on Shrader’s 35-yard pass to Alford. The Demon Deacons answered promptly as Kern’s 48-yard pass to Morin set up a 16-yard pass to Grimes to draw the visitors even.

Shrader’s 1-yard TD plunge early in the second quarter regained a 14-7 lead for Syracuse. However, Wake Forest drove down the field for a 36-yard field goal by Tyler Black.

The Orange had a chance to extend their advantage in the waning seconds of the first half, but Shrader hit Allen inbounds, short of the end zone, and the remaining seconds ticked off.

Early in the third quarter, Villari threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Alford, who got behind the defense for a 21-10 advantage.

Justice Ellison’s 2-yard TD run got Wake Forest within four points, but Syracuse restored an 11-point cushion on Villari’s one-handed touchdown grab from Shrader early in the fourth.

On the next Wake Forest play, Kern hit Morin for 59 yards, setting up his 16-yard scoring strike to Jahmal Banks on the next snap.

The teams exchanged touchdowns again later in the fourth – Shrader’s 37-yard pass to Umari Hatcher, followed by Kern’s 9-yard TD pass to Grimes – setting up the exciting finish.

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Haynes King (10) throws a pass against the Syracuse Orange in the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Hyundai Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Ga. Tech smothers Syracuse, 31-22

Haynes King threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as host Georgia Tech became bowl-eligible with a 31-22 home victory over Syracuse on Saturday evening in Atlanta.

King finished 16 of 20 for 180 yards and ran for a team-high 82 yards as the Yellow Jackets (6-5, 5-3 ACC) won for the third time in four games. Jamal Haynes contributed two touchdowns — one rushing and one receiving — for Georgia Tech.

Syracuse (5-6, 1-6) essentially played without a quarterback for the second straight game, as typical starter Garrett Shrader (upper body) was severely limited and regular backup Carlos Del Rio-Wilson (lower body) was sidelined.

Tight end Dan Villari took a bulk of the snaps for the Orange and went 14 of 14 for 59 yards while rushing for 64 yards and a score. Running back LeQuint Allen also saw significant action at quarterback and ran for 120 yards on 27 carries.

Georgia Tech took the opening kickoff and lit the scoreboard on King’s 15-yard TD pass to Haynes. Syracuse responded with Brady Denaburg’s 44-yard field goal, but that marked the only first-half points for the Orange.

Denaburg missed a 50-yarder early in the second quarter and the Yellow Jackets quickly made Syracuse pay, as King threw a bomb to Dominick Blaylock for a 53-yard touchdown. The hosts tacked on a 22-yard field goal from Aidan Birr in the waning seconds of the half for a 17-3 lead at intermission.

Things got even worse for Syracuse to begin the second half, as Darrell Gill Jr. fumbled the kickoff and Georgia Tech recovered. Haynes ran for a 30-yard touchdown on the next play to make it 24-3.

The Orange began their comeback with Villari’s 4-yard TD run with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

Later in the period, Allen unleashed a 53-yard punt return to set up his own 1-yard TD plunge, but the Orange botched the snap on the extra point. That error came back to bite the Orange, as they had to go for two after Allen’s 2-yard TD run midway through the fourth.

Allen tried to pass on the conversion attempt, but nothing materialized as Syracuse still trailed 24-22.

King’s 19-yard TD run with 2:22 left essentially sealed the outcome.

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; New York, New York, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Donovan McMillon (3) attempts to tackle Syracuse Orange tight end Dan Villari (89) during the second half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Sixth win at stake for Georgia Tech, Syracuse

With bowl eligibility at stake for both teams, Georgia Tech welcomes Syracuse to Atlanta on Saturday for a critical Atlantic Coast Conference matchup.

The Yellow Jackets (5-5, 4-3) recently posted back-to-back wins over then-No. 17 North Carolina and Virginia before getting doubled up by Clemson last weekend 42-21. Georgia Tech came into that game averaging 465 yards of offense but mustered only 254 yards against the Tigers.

Haynes King was picked off four times and the Yellow Jackets only held the ball for 23:08 as their five-game ACC road winning streak came to an end.

“We got our butts kicked out there today,” Georgia Tech coach Brent Key said. “We’ve got to continue to improve, push through these things, correct these things, and get ready to play another game next week.”

That game will come against a Syracuse team that snapped a five-game losing streak last weekend with an innovative 28-13 victory over Pittsburgh. The Orange (5-5, 1-5) essentially played without a quarterback, as the injured Garrett Shrader was only able to throw two passes.

That opened the door for coach Dino Babers to install a wildcat offense in which tight end Dan Villari (17 carries, 154 yards) and running back LeQuint Allen (28 carries, 102 yards) took the bulk of the snaps.

Shrader is questionable for Saturday’s affair, while backup Carlos Del Rio-Wilson appears unlikely to be available after missing the Pitt game.

The Orange need one win to become bowl-eligible for the second straight season. They haven’t gone to a bowl in back-to-back seasons since 2012 and 2013.

“The bottom part of success is getting these guys to a bowl game,” Babers said. “They give up their summers, they go through broken bones, torn ligaments, surgeries. If we can find a way to get into a bowl, to me, that’s a good thing.”

The Yellow Jackets are aiming for their first bowl appearance since 2018.

Georgia Tech swept its first three games against Syracuse before dropping the last meeting, 37-20 in 2020.

–Field Level Media

Nov 3, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson (16) runs as Boston College Eagles linebacker Kam Arnold (5) chases during the second half at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh, Syracuse limp into meeting at Yankee Stadium

Pitt and Syracuse have taken a beating in Atlantic Coast Conference play this season, leaving both teams longing for a victory Saturday when they meet at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

The Panthers (2-7, 1-4) have lost three straight games, including the last two by a combined margin of 82-14. They fell to Florida State 24-7 last weekend, although the game was tight until the Seminoles scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the third quarter.

Pitt ranks 110th in the nation in scoring with just 20.7 points a game, much to the dismay of coach Pat Narduzzi.

“We’ve got to get the ball to the right guy at the right time, and again, it’s always something you can do better,” Narduzzi said. “When you watch the tape, you look back (and think), ‘Hindsight, man, I wish we would have tried that.’ You don’t get a second chance.”

Syracuse (4-5, 0-5) is the only winless team in ACC play, as the offense has disappeared following a 4-0 start.

Carlos Del Rio-Wilson started last week’s 17-10 loss to Boston College in place of Garrett Shrader (undisclosed injury). Del Rio-Wilson battled through injuries of his own to go 7-for-17 for 37 yards, with four interceptions.

Syracuse coach Dino Babers has not made any decisions about Saturday’s starting quarterback, although he realizes the coaching staff and players need to take advantage of available opportunities.

“What we have to do is put those guys in a situation to make plays,” Babers said. “And then they have to be able to go out there and make the plays. Those kids, I thought, were in position to make plays. We just didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”

The Panthers have won 16 of the last 18 meetings between the teams, losing by only one point in 2012 and by three points in 2017.

Last season, Pitt held Del Rio-Wilson to 8-of-23 passing for 120 yards — and limited Syracuse to 145 total yards — in a 19-9 Panthers triumph.

–Field Level Media

Oct 26, 2023; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader (6) runs away from Virginia Tech Hokies defensive lineman Antwaun Powell-Ryland (52) during the first quarter at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse back home, looking to halt skid in matchup vs. BC

Boston College and Syracuse are trending in opposite directions entering Friday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference contest on the Orange’s home turf.

The Eagles (5-3, 2-2) have won four in a row, while the Orange (4-4, 0-4) have dropped four straight and are the only remaining winless team in ACC play.

Boston College allowed at least 27 points in each of its first four games but has not yielded more than 24 in any game during its current winning streak. The Eagles are coming off a 21-14 triumph against UConn in a game in which the Eagles’ Kye Robichaux ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

Syracuse, meanwhile, is looking to recover from a brutal stretch in which it lost to Clemson, North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia Tech by a combined margin of 150-34. On the bright side, the Orange have won two straight matchups with the Eagles, including 32-23 a season ago.

Friday’s contest will be the Eagles’ third road game in the last four outings, although the team certainly won’t be getting any sympathy cards from the Orange.

Syracuse has not played at home since its Sept. 30 loss against Clemson.

“(It’s been) a long time,” Orange coach Dino Babers said about returning home. “I think back to other offenses having trouble during their snap counts, other offenses jumping offsides. Hearing the crowd get excited, watching the defense get excited to get another opportunity 5 yards back. I want those good times again. There’s no place like Dome. This is the perfect time for us to come home. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered.”

Boston College coach Jeff Hafley has conducted some of this week’s practices indoors with pumped-in noise to simulate the upcoming conditions in Syracuse, N.Y.

“We turned on the music as loud as you can make it, so you can’t hear anything,” said Hafley. “It won’t sound exactly the same, but we can make it so you really can’t hear. … I’m sure the game will be loud; I’m sure there will be a great crowd and a great atmosphere. It usually is there, and it’s a Friday night game.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis (13) in the second half against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Florida State looks to smash Syracuse again

No. 4 Florida State is one of four Atlantic Coast Conference teams that are undefeated in league play.

The Seminoles (5-0, 3-0) may be the best of the bunch, but in order to support that claim, they’ll need to defeat visiting Syracuse (4-2, 0-2) on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.

Florida State is in the midst of a three-game homestand that began last weekend with a 39-17 victory over Virginia Tech. The Seminoles have tallied at least 31 points in every game this season and rank sixth in the nation in scoring (42.4).

Jordan Travis is the engine driving the Seminoles, as he’s passed for 12 touchdowns with only one interception. He has thrown two TDs with no picks in each of the last four games and completed a season-high 75 percent of his passes against the Hokies.

“I’m not going to enjoy watching him play,” quipped Syracuse coach Dino Babers, “but when you get done, he’s one of those guys that you do turn on the TV to watch because he plays at an extremely high level.”

Travis lit up the Orange last season, completing 21 of 23 passes for 155 yards and three TDs in a 38-3 shellacking. The Seminoles lead the all-time series 13-2 and are 7-0 at home against Syracuse.

Babers knows the challenge that awaits his team, which has been outscored 71-21 over the last two weeks and is in the midst of a 34-day stretch without a home game.

“We’ve beaten a team in the top five before, but it’s very, very difficult to do, and it’s extremely difficult to do when you’re at their place,” Babers said.

If they have any hopes of pulling the upset, the Orange will need a big day out of Garrett Shrader. The senior signal-caller has been held under 200 yards passing in three of the last four games and has thrown at least one interception in four straight contests.

He also has rushed for a total of 102 yards in the last three games after erupting for 195 rushing yards and four scores in last month’s win over Purdue.

“Obviously you look at the course of work that he’s done over the last couple years, he’s a very talented player and can do a lot of great things with his arm,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said. “If you account for everybody in the passing game and don’t have eyes and a body on him, he’ll definitely make you pay as a runner.”

On the other side of the ball, Syracuse leans on a dangerous defensive line that has helped the Orange lead the ACC in tackles for loss (7.8 per game). Linebacker Marlowe Wax is a major factor as well, having registered a team-high 45 tackles, three forced fumbles, two sacks and an interception.

“You’re not going to see a team that brings more variations of pressures,” Norvell said. “Just the different looks from three down to four down to — they can blitz everybody on the field at some point. You have to be great with your eyes. You have to be great with your technique. We had a couple slow reactions where we gave up pressures there the other day.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Top ACC QBs clash as Syracuse visits No. 14 UNC

Two of the top quarterbacks in the Atlantic Coast Conference will be on display Saturday when No. 14 North Carolina hosts Syracuse in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Tar Heels (4-0, 1-0 ACC) have scored at least 31 points in every game behind dynamic sophomore Drake Maye, who has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in every contest.

Maye does have four interceptions after tossing just seven picks (with 38 touchdowns) a season ago. He also was sacked five times in the Tar Heels’ last game — a 41-24 victory at Pittsburgh on Sept. 23.

Regardless, Syracuse coach Dino Babers sees Maye as a formidable foe for his squad, which is coming off its first loss of the season.

The Orange (4-1, 0-1) were thumped by Clemson 31-14 last weekend following a nonconference slate in which they won their four games by an average of 33.5 points.

“This will be the best quarterback we’ve played this year,” Babers said. “Obviously, the guy last Saturday (Clemson’s Cade Klubnik) played extremely well, but this guy is different. He’s going to be an NFL guy. He’s what makes that team go on offense.”

In a similar sense, Garrett Shrader is the engine for the Syracuse offense. He has passed for 1,148 yards and eight touchdowns, not to mention 340 rushing yards — just 23 behind LeQuint Allen for the team lead — and six scores on the ground.

“He’s one of the toughest quarterbacks I’ve ever seen,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “So he’ll be a real challenge.”

Another common thread between the two quarterbacks is the absence of a key weapon on each sideline.

Syracuse continues to play without tight end Oronde Gadsden II (foot), who had 61 catches for 969 yards and six touchdowns a season ago. North Carolina, meanwhile, has had to lean heavily on J.J. Jones (16 catches for a team-high 296 yards) in the absence of transfer Tez Walker, deemed ineligible to play during the 2023 regular season.

“J.J. has had to step up even more since we don’t have Tez Walker,” Brown said. “Drake’s a good combo with him.”

Jones, who had six catches for 117 yards against Pitt, will likely be a focus of the Syracuse defense, which allowed Clemson’s top target, Tyler Brown, to accumulate nine catches for 153 yards last weekend.

Things don’t get any easier after Saturday for Syracuse, which travels to visit No. 5 Florida State next weekend. The Orange’s schedule in October features three road contests and zero home games.

“We’re 4-1 and we’re almost halfway done with the season,” Babers said. “We’re not perfect, (but) we almost are. Now we’ve got to go on the road and play some really challenging games against some really highly ranked teams with some fantastic athletes. It’s going to be challenging.”

Syracuse and North Carolina have met only six times and just twice since 2003. The Orange won 40-37 in double-overtime in 2018 and the Tar Heels got revenge two years later with a 31-6 victory.

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader (6) scores a rushing touchdown against the Army Black Knights in the fourth quarter at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson takes aim at unbeaten Syracuse

Six Atlantic Coast Conference teams are undefeated entering this weekend, so it’s no surprise that the matchup between Clemson and Syracuse features one team with an unblemished record.

However, in an unlikely twist, it’s the host Orange who will put their unbeaten mark on the line Saturday.

Clemson (2-2, 0-2 ACC) outgained then-fourth-ranked Florida State 429-311 last weekend and outrushed the Seminoles 146-22 before falling in overtime 31-24. Clemson committed a costly turnover and also missed a 29-yard field goal in the disappointing setback.

“That, honestly, was probably as tough a loss as I’ve ever been a part of,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said, adding that “if you can’t see the heart of our team, then you’re just blind.”

An agitated group of Tigers will travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange (4-0, 0-0), who ran the table in non-conference play, punctuating the slate with a 29-16 triumph against Army last week.

Syracuse survived a sluggish first half in which it trailed 10-3 at intermission before scoring the first 26 points of the second half.

Garrett Shrader completed 21 of 26 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a score. LeQuint Allen (104 rushing yards, TD) and Damien Alford (nine catches, 135 yards) were among the other offensive standouts for Syracuse.

That trio will need to step up if the hosts are going to compete with the Tigers’ Cade Klubnik — who has nine passing TDs and two rushing scores this year — and the backfield of Will Shipley and Phil Mafah (527 rushing yards and four rushing TDs combined).

“These guys are the same champions that they’ve always been,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “There’s a reason why they’ve won so many championships and they’ve been in (so many playoffs).”

Clemson has won nine of the last 10 meetings between the teams, including 27-21 a season ago. The Orange were undefeated heading into that one, as well, before the Tigers sent Syracuse tumbling toward a 1-6 finish to the season.

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader (6) throws a pass in the first quarter against the Army Black Knights at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Big second half lifts Syracuse over Army

Garrett Shrader threw for a touchdown and ran for a score as Syracuse awoke after halftime in a 29-16 win over visiting Army on Saturday afternoon.

Shrader finished 21 of 26 for 245 yards, while Damien Alford registered nine catches for 135 yards. LeQuint Allen ran for 104 yards and a score, and Shrader chipped in 50 yards on the ground.

The Orange (4-0) remained unbeaten despite a lethargic first half in which they failed to convert a third down and trailed 10-3 at the break against the scrappy Black Knights (2-2).

Syracuse’s second half began with disappointment as well, as the hosts drove to the Army 32 before getting stuffed on fourth-and-short. However, the Orange tied the game on their next possession, igniting their dominant second-half performance.

Shrader and Alford fueled the tying drive with connections of 31 and 19 yards, setting up Allen’s 13-yard sprint to the end zone.

Following another Black Knights punt, the Orange drove back into the red zone and cashed in when Shrader found Umari Hatcher for a 13-yard score on third-and-9.

Army went three-and-out on its next trip and Syracuse responded with a 30-yard field goal from Brady Denaburg. Shrader’s 21-yard TD run with 9:46 left and Denaburg’s 31-yard field goal less than four minutes later extended the cushion to 29-10.

The Black Knights’ Bryson Daily finished 9 of 21 for 145 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown — an 80-yarder to Noah Short in the waning minutes. Short caught six balls for 105 yards, while Daily led Army’s ground attack with 47 yards on 20 attempts.

After managing just 77 yards of offense in the first half, the Orange totaled 326 yards after the break. They held the ball for more than 20 minutes in the second half and outgained Army on the ground, 140 to minus-4 following intermission.

–Field Level Media