No. 8 Miami fends off upset-minded Syracuse

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- It wasn't a last-second, do-or-die win as had been the case the previous two weeks in victories over Florida State and Georgia Tech. But the win was dramatic enough in its own way for No. 8 Miami on Saturday.

With just over five minutes left in the game, the Hurricanes were backed up at their 15-yard line, clinging to a one-point lead with momentum seemingly swinging Syracuse's way.

That's when a Miami offense that had been up and down the entire dreary, cloudy afternoon put together an 85-yard, game-clinching drive, and the Hurricanes (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) extended their winning streak to 11 games with a 27-19 victory over the mistake-ridden Orange (4-4, 2-2 ACC).

"Well, we found another way to make it really exciting," Miami coach Mark Richt said. "Part of the reason was Syracuse is a really good football team."

Quarterback Malik Rosier passed for 344 yards and two touchdowns, one a 48-yard strike to freshman speedster Jeff Thomas, and Miami's defense came up with four interceptions and a late stop as the Hurricanes went to 4-0 in ACC play for the first time since joining the conference in 2004.

"It's kind of repetitive, and I blame this game on the offense," Rosier said. "I blame a lot on me. There were multiple times in the red zone that we dropped balls, that I missed targets. That's something we have to fix."

Twice in the first half, Miami had drives into Syracuse territory fizzle and result in field goals, but the offense was there when it was needed late. Running back Travis Homer scored on a 33-yard burst up the middle with 2:48 left in the game after the Hurricanes had forced the Orange to go for a field goal with just over five minutes remaining to close the deficit to 20-19.

Syracuse's drive for a potential tie after Miami's last score died at their 45-yard line when quarterback Eric Dungey's fourth-and-7 pass was incomplete. He finished 13 of 41 passing for only 137 yards but rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries.

All his interceptions came in the first half.

"Came back and played a better second half of football," Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. "But when you're playing a team like this you've got to score touchdowns, not kick field goals, if you're going to beat a team that's ranked in the top 10."

The Orange scored their only touchdown on running back Moe Neal's 15-yard run with just over a minute left in the third quarter, but added only a pair of field goals by Cole Murphy in the final period.

The first came after Syracuse drove to Miami's 10-yard but ended up in a fourth-and-goal from the 26 after lost yardage on three consecutive plays. The second came when the Orange stalled after having a second-and-2 at Miami's 29 turn into a fourth-and-8 two plays later following a six-yard loss and an incompletion.

Murphy then hit from 53 yards -- a career long for the senior -- to cut Miami's to 20-19.

"Our defense played a great game," Dungey said. "Offensively we've got to help them out."

Cornerback Michael Jackson had two of Miami's interceptions, his second and third picks of the season, while safety Jaquan Johnson and defensive end Demetrius Jackson had one each. Demetrius Jackson gave the ball right back to the Orange when he fumbled at the end of his four-yard return on the opening series, but the other takeaways led to 10 points for the Hurricanes.

NOTES: Syracuse CB Scoop Bradshaw (seven starts, 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, five passes broken up) missed the game after sustaining an upper-body injury against Clemson the previous week. ... Miami CB Dee Delaney (lower extremity) and RG Navaughn Donaldson (lower extremity), who each started the first four games, were out for a second consecutive week. ... Miami WR Ahmmon Richards returned after missing the previous week with a hamstring injury. He finished with six catches for 99 yards. ... Syracuse QB Eric Dungey threw four interceptions, doubling his season total. He entered the game with four in 293 attempts for the season and none in 81 attempts in past two games... Syracuse rushed for 264 yards, a season-high against Miami.

Updated October 21, 2017

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