Andre Szmyt hits game-winning field goal as Syracuse beats Liberty, 24-21 (full coverage)

Dino Babers put all of his hopes on the leg of his former Lou Groza Award winner. After the Syracuse football defense forced a fumble from Liberty quarterback Malik Willis with about three minutes left in a 21-21 game, the Orange wound down the clock.

A nine-yard scramble from Garrett Shrader, the former Mississippi State quarterback who got the nod over Tommy DeVito, Andre Szmyt trotted on. He waited out an attempt from Flames head coach Hugh Freeze to ice the field-goal unit before drilling a 34-yard attempt.

The win lifts Syracuse to 3-1 ahead of its Atlantic Coast Conference opener at struggling Florida State next weekend. And it turns the page in a quarterback saga that saw Shrader work in behind DeVito for the first three games of the year before playing every snap in the Carrier Dome on Friday night. Shrader completed only 6-of-15 passes for 77 yards, but he ran for 53 yards and two scores, orchestrating a running game that saw second-year standout Sean Tucker go for 169 yards and a touchdown of his own.

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It’ll be Friday night lights, a national audience as one of just four nationally televised games on Friday night, and the toughest test yet when Liberty comes to town on Friday night.

The Flames are the stiffest competition yet, according to national pollsters, as they’re just one place from cracking the top-25 of the AP poll heading into the game.

The Orange are looking to continue their past success on Friday nights. ‘Cuse has won five of their last seven Friday games and holds a 6-3 Friday record under head coach Dino Babers. The streak includes ‘Cuse’s 27-24 win against No. 2 Clemson in 2017 and the 2018 Camping World victory against West Virginia as its most notable wins over that time. Syracuse has two Friday night games on the 2021 slate, including a Oct. 15 matchup against Clemson in the Carrier Dome. The Orange are 15-6 (.714) in weekday games since beating Kansas State in the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl.

While it will be a shorter week of preparation for the Orange, Coach Babers knows his players will be excited for the opportunity.

“The players need to be fresh. The key thing is to make sure we get our practice in on Monday and we’ll get our practice in tomorrow and then back off of these guys and try to get them to the game on Friday as fresh as they can be because they’ll be playing in front of their friends,” Babers said. “It’s that Friday night game, everybody that plays a Saturday night game gets to watch while they’re sitting in the hotels. All of their buddies will see them, all their high school buddies, all their college buddies, coaches across the country, other coaches calling coaches, head coaches calling head coaches. It’s a fabulous opportunity to put our program in the limelight.”

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