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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (cuse.com) - The Syracuse University football team (3-1, 1-0 ACC) lost its first game of the season against No. 8 LSU (3-0, 2-0 SEC) at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Sept. 26. The Orange kept the contest close for majority of the game before losing by a final score of 34-24 in front of 43,101 people.
The Orange went into halftime only trailing by four points, but the Tigers utilized a 27-point second half to pull away with the victory. LSU running back Leonard Fournette was the difference-maker in the contest, rushing for 244 yards and two touchdowns, carrying the offensive load for the Tigers.
Freshman quarterback Zack Mahoney completed 16-of-38 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns in his first start with the Orange. Junior Brisly Estime also had a solid day for Syracuse, finishing with 252 total yards, including a 40-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter that eventually pulled the Orange within seven. Whenever Syracuse found its rhythm offensively, LSU had an answer.
LSU finished with 425 yards offensively despite a strong defensive performance by sophomore Antwan Cordy, who led the Syracuse defense with eight tackles. Tigers' quarterback Brandon Harris was 8-of-16 passing for 157 yards, including a pivotal fourth quarter touchdown that put LSU up by two possessions. With a heisman candidate in Fournette running with the LSU offense, the Orange defense had its hands full all afternoon, starting early in the first quarter.
LSU opened the scoring in the first on a six-play 91-yard drive capped off by a 14-yard touchdown run from Fournette at the 3:56 mark. The drive included a 48-yard rush by Fournette taking a desperation pitch from Harris who was nearly brought down for a sack. Syracuse held its own in the first half, holding LSU scoreless for the remainder of the half.
The Orange put its first points on the board with 6:58 left in the second quarter, as sophomore kicker Cole Murphy booted a 43-yard field goal, pulling Syracuse within four. Syracuse ran nine plays for 33 yards that included a fourth-and-one conversion by freshman running back Jordan Fredericks. The Orange rushing attack finished with 127 yards with 25 of them coming from Fredericks. Syracuse continued to hang around with the Tigers, heading into halftime only trailing by four, 7-3. LSU looked like a new team in the second half, putting more pressure on the Orange defense to make plays.
The Tigers went back up by seven in its opening drive of the second half, as kicker Trent Dominigue connected for a 21-yard field goal. LSU moved down the field 76 yards on 12 plays, but the Orange defense made a pivotal stop inside the red zone to hold the Tigers to just a field goal.
After a three and out from Syracuse on the following drive, senior punter Riley Dixon punted the ball away to Tre'Davious White, who returned it from 69 yards out for the score. LSU controlled a 17-3 lead at the 7:48 mark in the third quarter, scoring 10 unanswered points on 'Cuse. The Orange found an answer on its following drive, pulling back within seven with the 40-yard touchdown pass from Mahoney to Estime. Syracuse only ran three plays on the drive, going 67 yards down the field for the score.
Fournette continued to impress offensively for LSU on the team's next drive, rushing up the gut 62 yards for the score, extending the Tigers' lead to 14 headed into the fourth quarter, 24-10. The Orange pulled back within a possession on its first drive of the fourth quarter at the 12:06 mark, utilizing a seven-play 56-yard touchdown drive. Junior Ben Lewis caught the second touchdown of his career from two yards out on third down, which was followed by a Murphy extra point, pulling the Orange back within seven.
Despite the touchdown catch from Lewis to keep it close in the fourth, LSU had an answer. The Tigers went back up by 14 after the Lewis' score, but this time it was through their passing game. After converting on a crucial third down with a 51-yard reception by Travin Dural, Harris hooked up with Malachi Dupre for an 11-yard touchdown catch. An LSU interception by Deion Jones set up a 37-yard field goal by Domingue to give the Tigers a 34-17 lead with only 5:11 left.
With time dwindling on the clock, Syracuse scored its final touchdown a bit too late. Mahoney connected with freshman Dontae Strickland that eventually pulled the Orange within 10, but LSU expired what was left on the clock on its ensuing possession, kneeling the ball to finalize the game with a 34-24 win over the Orange.