Syracuse, NY— Irish DB Brandon Joseph returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game, St. Joes Alum (Montvale, NJ) tailback Audric Estimé rushed for 123 yards and scored twice in the fourth quarter to squash a Syracuse (6-2) rally, Notre Dame defeated the No. 16 Orange 41-24 on Saturday in the Carrier Dome.
The Orangeman would come back on the next drive and score on a Garrett Schrader 14 yard touchdown pass to Oronde Gadsden. But turnovers were the achilles heel for the Cuse. They couldn’t get out of their own way.
The Irish (5-3) has won five of six since opening the season with losses at Ohio State and at home to Marshall. The Irish have won 26 consecutive regular-season games against ACC opponents, and they’ve played some of their best football of late, including a 45-32 win at No. 21 North Carolina.
“It was huge. To start the game on defense and the very first play to get a pick-six, that’s how you want to start if you can,” Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said. “It was a huge momentum builder for everybody.”
The Orange was coming off a difficult loss last week to # 5 ranked Clemson Tigers and was trying to rebound, especially after the way they lost the game. They came up short again on Saturday.
The Irish outgained Syracuse 246-61 on the ground.
“We’re just going to run after you. You’re going to have to stop us,”Estimé said. “If you’re not stopping us, we’re going to keep on doing it until the game’s over. Just showed our identity today.”
The Fighting Irish would also struggle to get in the end zone after their defense got seven on the opening drive, they did not score again until the second quarter. Even though the Orangemen got stops and forced Notre dame to punt and got turnovers they couldn’t fully capitalize on the miscues. At the 8:23 mark, Irish RB Logan Diggs ran it in for a three for a score, giving them a 14-7 lead and helped them to gain some continuity on offense.
Sean Tucker finished with 60 yards on 16 carries and scored on a 4-yard run in the final minute of the third quarter to inch Cuse within striking distance at 24-17. But the Orange starting quarterback Garrett Shrader was kept out of the game in the second half because of an undisclosed injury.
Shrader, a dual threat and a vital cog in the offense, rushed only twice for 2 yards and completed 5 of 14 passes for just 35 yards.
“I’m really disappointed about the loss but still feel good about this football team,” Babers said. “We’re 6-2, the two opponents that we just played were extremely, extremely physical. Obviously, some of that stuff has taken a toll. I told the team to stay together which we will do.”
Going into the fourth, it looked like the Orangemen were on their way back to tying the game, they stopped Notre Dame and had all the momentum starting the drive or so it seemed like it.
On the next drive backup quarterback Carlos Del-Rio Wilson ball was tipped and intercepted by lineman Marist Liufau, that play would set off a string of plays that would end the game for the Orangemen. On Notre dame next possession, they ended the drive with a 10 yard touchdown run, giving them a 31-17 lead and never looked back.
Irish quarterback Drew Pyne, who had time all game to throw down the field used his full arsenal of receivers to frustrate the Orange’s secondary.
“Just the urgency we have as a program to improve,” Freeman said. “Not to stay the course. it’s fix the course. Fix the mistakes. There has to be a sense of urgency from the top down to fix the mistakes.”
Syracuse had its second straight sellout crowd, which had an early effect in the indoors stadium. ND were called for two false starts and Blake Grupe missed a 39-yard field goal late in the first quarter.
Notre Dame hosts No. 5 Clemson next Saturday.
Syracuse is at Pittsburgh next Saturday.