BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Garrett Shrader rushed for three touchdowns and threw for two, including one to Damien Alford with 19 seconds left, to lift Syracuse to a 41-36 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The Orange (4-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) scored 14 points in the final 2:28 to snap a three-game losing streak. Shrader’s 45-yard scoring toss to Alford, who beat Virginia Tech’s Dorian Strong, was the difference.
“This is going to be one of those moments,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “I really see this as being one of those moments that starts the change. I can’t promise you it’s going to change in W’s and L’s, but I can tell you it’s going to change in everything else.”
Syracuse cut a 36-27 deficit to 36-34 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Shrader to Courtney Jackson with 2:28 remaining. The Orange’s defense then stopped the Hokies on the ensuing possession, leading to Shrader’s winning toss to Alford, who out jumped Strong at the 7 and ran it for the score.
“That was a catch I have to make,” Alford said.
“I didn’t see the play (he was hit as he was throwing),” Shrader said. “I just heard the stadium get kind of quiet. When you’re away, that typically means it’s a good thing.”
Shrader threw for 236 yards and rushed for 174, accounting for 410 of Syracuse’s 550 yards of total offense. Sean Tucker added 112 yards rushing and a score.
Malachi Thomas paced Virginia Tech (3-4, 1-2), which has lost three straight games, with 151 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The Hokies finished with season highs in total yards (437) and rushing yards (260).
“That’s a tough way to lose a ballgame,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “I’m very proud of our kids again. They keep putting forth incredible efforts on field, all the way till the end. I hurt for our players, just because of the effort, the exertion they put out there today to find a way to be up towards the end and fought all the way till the last play of the game trying to find a way to win it. We’ll have to get them rounded back together and be ready to go next week.”
Syracuse: The Orange finally won a close game after losing three straight by three points each. Shrader was magnificent the entire game, and between him and Tucker, the Orange have a potent offense. The defense came up with a big stop on the Hokies’ penultimate drive, leading to a huge road win for Babers.
Virginia Tech: This might be the game that leads to the end of the Fuente era at Virginia Tech. After Syracuse’s winning score, the Hokie faithful started chanting “Fire Fuente” and have seen enough after the Hokies lost their third straight game at home. The Hokies are in danger of a third losing season in the past four years.
“We ain’t going down that road, OK?” Fuente said when asked about his job status. “Everybody up and down that hallway (the coaches offices) is selling out to give these kids a chance to win, so I’m not worried about any of that. So we can’t be focused on things we can’t control. What we can control is our attitude and our effort. Our kids have been incredible with all of that. Our job now is to get them to do the exact same thing for next week.”
AN ASCENDING QB
Babers inserted Shrader, a sophomore, into the starting role five games ago, and Shrader continues to improve. Though completing just 53% of his passes on the season — he completed 16 of 34 against the Hokies — he’s only thrown two interceptions in his five starts. His 236 passing yards and three touchdown passes against Virginia Tech were career highs.
“The numbers don’t necessarily look great, but we did everything we needed to do to put ourselves in position to win,” Shrader said. “Defense stepped up big time … They got the ball back for us (with 1:04 left), and all we needed was a minute. I don’t think we had any timeouts, but that was more than enough time for us to go down and score.”
Syracuse: The Orange play at home Saturday against Boston College.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies play at Georgia Tech on Saturday.