Cavs spoil Syracuse's fourth-quarter comeback

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Every time the Syracuse defense seemed to have Marques Hagans cornered, he slithered away. Eventually, he carried Virginia to another win over the Orange.

Hagans ran for 110 yards, including a 26-yarder on third-and-6 to help set up Connor Hughes' game-winning field goal, and the Cavaliers beat the Orange 27-24 on Saturday.

"He was pretty spectacular," said Virginia coach Al Groh, who elected to run down the clock, gambling on a fourth-and-1 at the Syracuse 9 with just over a minute remaining. "All the teams that accomplish anything during a season have a quarterback that picks his team up and carries it, and he surely did that."

Hughes connected on a 26-yarder as time expired after fullback Jason Snelling's crucial 4-yard run on fourth down.

"Are you familiar with the movie 'Risky Business'? What the heck!" Groh said of his gamble.

Hagans didn't let three first-half interceptions ruin his day. He converted three critical third downs on a third-quarter drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal by Hughes. For the game, Virginia was 10-for-17 on third-down conversions.

Hagans was at his best on the winning drive, deflating the raucous Carrier Dome crowd by ducking under the rush, faking left and sprinting down the right side for the pivotal 26-yard gain. He was 16-for-26 for 145 yards passing to lead the Cavaliers (2-0) to
their second victory in two years over the Orange (1-2).

"I was disappointed by the three interceptions," said Hagans, who threw only five picks last year. "My team fought hard, and that's all that matters. They kept us in the game and won a tough one on the road."

Syracuse tailback Damien Rhodes had 109 all-purpose yards but did not score a week after scoring four times against Buffalo.

"I thought we were going to make it into overtime," Rhodes said. "He [Hagans] just turned it up another level."

Syracuse has now forced 10 turnovers this season but has yet to convert them into a single point.

"It's just part of the game," said Syracuse's rookie head coach Greg Robinson, also the team's defensive coordinator. "What I like is they kept fighting back. They didn't get discouraged. They came up with some huge plays, and that's a good thing."

Perry Patterson was 17-for-26 for 172 yards and no turnovers and scored twice on short runs for Syracuse, which made a game of it by utilizing its tight ends. Joe Kowalewski caught a career-high seven passes for 96 yards and Alex Shor had two catches for 15 yards.

Patterson scored on a 9-yard run to cap the Orange's first possession of the game, but the Syracuse offense didn't get going again until late in the third quarter.

Facing a third-and-7 from his own 43, Patterson eluded the Virginia rush and dumped the ball to Rhodes, who ran 24 yards to the Virginia 33. Two plays later, Patterson faked a pass to Rhodes in the left flat, spun and hit a wide-open Kowalewski on the other side for a 31-yard touchdown to move the Orange within 17-14.

The celebration was short-lived. Less than a minute later, Virginia went back in front 24-14 on a 70-yard run around the left side by Michael Johnson.

Syracuse struck again early in the fourth. After passes to Kowalewski and Shor, Patterson ran in from the 3 to make it 24-21 and send the Carrier Dome crowd into a frenzy.

Fired up, the defense forced a punt after defensive end Ryan LaCasse sacked Hagans on a third-and-10 play and the Orange took over at their 46. Faced with a fourth-and-4 play from the Virginia 38, Patterson hit Kowalewski for 11 yards to set up a 27-yard field
goal by walk-on John Barker with 6:25 left. For Barker, it was the first kick of his career and tied the game at 24-24.

"The offense fought back so hard in the second half," said LaCasse, who had an interception in the end zone early in the second quarter. "They really gave us a shot to win it. I felt like the momentum was swinging our way, then Hagans once again made a play on us."

Hagans capped a short drive by hitting Cedric Peerman with a 1-yard scoring pass midway through the second quarter to give Virginia a 14-7 halftime lead. It was Peerman's second TD of the game.