Syracuse pulled off an improbable comeback in Tampa on Saturday night, overcoming a 20-point halftime deficit and nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 37-36, dealing USF yet another heartbreaking loss.
The Orange, down 23-3 at halftime, showed incredible resilience once the second half resumed. They scored 21 unanswered points -- 14 of them off USF mistakes (blocked field goal and fumble). Then, they withstood a scoring flurry from USF as the Bulls took a 33-24 lead with 10:43 remaining.
Trailing 36-31, Syracuse got the ball with 1:23 remaining. The Orange had no timeouts and had to drive 75 yards. And they did just that, as Ryan Nassib hit Alec Lemon for the 1-yard touchdown pass with 3 seconds remaining. The Orange did not play their best game, particularly on run defense.
After giving up 212 total rushing yards in the last four games -- including minus-6 to UConn last week -- Syracuse gave up 369 yards to the Bulls. Both Lindsey Lamar and B.J. Daniels -- who has been a thorn in Syracuse's side throughout his career -- each went over 100 yards on the ground. It was the first time USF had two 100-yard runners since 2007.
They were a big reason why USF put itself in position to win the game.
But the Bulls have a major problem holding onto leads in the fourth quarter. They lost on a last-minute scoring drive for the second straight week, dropping those two games by a combined three points. In fact, they have lost three games this year with the final possession on the line, if you count Ball State. The heartbreaking losses go back to last season as well.
You have to wonder how much one team can take. USF (2-6, 0-4) has lost six straight now after letting another game slip from its grasp.
As for the Orange (4-4, 3-1), this team has won three of their past four games and is moving into position to try and become bowl eligible. The remaining four games are tough (at Cincinnati, Louisville, at Missouri at Temple) but perhaps the Orange can pull off an upset to get to six victories.
Nassib finished 27-of-40 for 328 yards with four touchdowns. Jerome Smith notched his second straight 100-yard rushing game, with 127 yards on 28 carries. And Marcus Sales had a terrific game, with nine catches for 125 yards and two scores.
Lost in the loss, Daniels went over 10,000 career yards of total offense.