Football

On record-breaking night, Nassib cements role in Syracuse football history; Missouri quarterback Franklin dominates 1st half before leaving game with injury

Taylor Baucom | Contributing Photographer

Missouri quarterback James Franklin goes to pass while Syracuse defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster chases. Franklin left the game in the third quarter due to injury.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — David Stevens broke free up the middle. He ran forward at the snap, turned to face his quarterback and hauled in the pass that made Ryan Nassib the greatest quarterback, statistically, in Syracuse history.

Nassib’s 14-yard completion to Stevens on the opening drive of the game on Saturday made him the all-time leading passer in school history, passing Orange legend Marvin Graves to move into the top spot. And by the time Nassib had led his team on a last-second scoring drive to upset Missouri 31-27, he’d thrown for 385 yards and one touchdown.

His final touchdown pass of the game, a 15-yarder to Alec Lemon, gave him 23 for the year, setting another SU record for most touchdown throws in a single season.

“I love that guy,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “Congratulations, Ryan. Holy cow.”

As head coach Doug Marrone has grown the Syracuse program over his four years at the helm, Nassib’s growth as a quarterback has taken on a direct relationship.

He spent a season observing — and waiting — during the Greg Paulus experiment, playing a limited role on a few plays per game. But since then, the team has been his. It’s gone as he has gone, and lately that direction has been up.

“We trust him, and he leads our team in the right direction,” Lemon said.

With Saturday’s win, he’s now guided the Orange to victories in four of its last five games. He engineered two touchdown drives in the final half of the fourth quarter last night, calmly running the offense and exuding the poise and moxie needed late in games.

He even overcame a later interception on a pass that deflected off Wales’ hands. Instead of wallowing in the moment — one that could have sealed the game for Missouri — he shared a moment of encouragement with his tight end and promptly mounted the seven-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that won the game and strengthened his legacy.

“It was fun,” Nassib said. “We have fun silencing crowds like this. We’ve been here before, and we were fortunate enough to make enough plays to have it happen again.”

It was a stark contrast from last year’s team, which promptly fell off a cliff in the second half of the season by losing five straight games. Suddenly, this year’s Orange squad can compete with anyone.

And Nassib is the main reason why.

“I already knew (the offense was) going to make the play,” safety Shamarko Thomas said. “When they tell us they’re going to make the play, they do it. I already knew we were going to win.”

Injury to Franklin hurts Tigers

 He had been erratic. See the 27 incompletions and four interceptions in a loss to Florida. He had been ineffective. See the 92 total passing yards in a 21-point defeat to South Carolina.

But on this night, a warm one in front of a modest crowd against a mediocre non-conference opponent, James Franklin was dominant.

Through two possessions he completed every pass. Through one quarter he tallied 173 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. He picked apart a Syracuse secondary that tackled poorly and covered worse on the way to a 17-10 halftime lead.

Franklin’s first pass of the game, a bubble screen that floated towards the left side, was plucked out of the air by speedster Dorial Green-Beckham, who promptly raced down field untouched for a 70-yard touchdown.

He started the Tigers’ next possession with four straight completions, amassing 54 yards in a matter of seconds. Franklin capped the drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jimmie Hunt on a crossing route, and Hunt outraced three SU defenders to reach the corner of the end zone.

He cooled after halftime, producing zero points in the third quarter. And then he got hurt — an injury that proved costly in a game decided in the final few minutes.

“I just got the word that he was dinged,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. “Our trainers pulled him out. We’ll see where it goes from here. I don’t know which play it happened on.”

Just as suddenly as he had put together what looked like the best game of his season, Franklin was gone. And in his place was backup Corbin Berkstresser, who managed the game fairly well but lacked the explosiveness that Franklin, a dual-threat quarterback, used to torment the Orange early.

Berkstresser finished the game 4-for-8 for 85 yards and one interception on the game’s final play. He led the Tigers on a touchdown drive on his first possession of the game, but after that he produced a three-and-out and a field goal when his team needed seven points to try and put away the Orange.

He ended with a face full of Deon Goggins, who shoved a Missouri offensive lineman into the quarterback’s lap on he final play of the game. The result was a ball heaved desperately down field and easily picked off by Keon Lyn, igniting a celebration for the Orange.

“It came down to who wanted it more,” Goggins said. “And we wanted it more. I sure wanted it more, so I had to get back there and make something happen and help my brothers.”

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