SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Connor Hughes kicked a 19-yard field goal as time expired, and No. 25 Virginia escaped the raucous Carrier Dome with a 27-24 victory over Syracuse on Saturday.

It was the second victory in two years for the Cavaliers (2-0) over Syracuse (1-2) and spoiled a determined comeback by the Orange, who trailed 24-14 entering the fourth quarter.

Marques Hagans, who gained 110 yards rushing and was 16-for-26 for 145 yards passing, shook off three interceptions to lead the Cavaliers on their winning drive. He gained 26 yards on a keeper to get it going, and Virginia coach Al Groh elected to run down the clock, gambling on a fourth-and-1 at the Syracuse 9 with just over a minute remaining. Fullback Jason Snelling responded with a 4-yard run to set up the winning kick.

Perry Patterson was 17-for-26 for 172 yards and scored twice on short runs for Syracuse, which made a game of it by utilizing its tight ends. Big Joe Kowalewski caught a career-high seven passes for 96 yards and Alex Shor had two catches for 15 yards.

Tailback Damien Rhodes, who rushed for 236 yards and scored four times last week against Buffalo, finished with 79 yards.

The Cavaliers took a 17-7 lead early in the third on a 26-yard field goal by Hughes before the Syracuse offense finally got untracked for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.

Facing a third-and-7 from his own 43, Patterson eluded the Virginia rush and dumped the ball to Rhodes on the left side, 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.

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 Orange took an early lead on Patterson’s 9-yard run and Virginia came right back to tie it when Cedric Peerman scored his first of two touchdowns on a 1-yard run.

It was the first offensive touchdown allowed by the Orange this season.

The Syracuse defense, which had forced seven turnovers in the first two games, struck again just when the Cavaliers were poised to take the lead. Hagans completed four passes for 61 yards to move Virginia inside the Syracuse 10, but on a third-and-4 LaCasse intercepted a pass in the end zone.

The Cavaliers took advantage of a 15-yard penalty against Syracuse for catching interference on a punt return and drove 32 yards in four plays to take a 14-7 halftime lead. Hagans capped the drive by hitting Peerman with a 1-yard scoring pass midway through the second quarter.

AP-ES-09-17-05 1544EDT


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