No. 6 Syracuse 35, Ball St. 12
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ Marvin Graves threw for three touchdowns in less than three quarters Saturday night to carry No. 6 Syracuse to a 35-12 victory over Ball State in the season opener for both teams.
Graves, second in the nation in passing efficiency last season as a junior while leading Syracuse to a 10-2 record, threw scoring passes of 7, 5 and 61 yards to three different players as the Orangemen won their seventh straight season opener.
He completed 11 of 17 passes for 224 yards before giving way to backup Kevin Mason with 1:15 remaining in the third quarter. He also gained 66 yards on five carries.
Syracuse built a 16-3 lead in the first half, then seized control of the game with touchdowns on its opening two possessions of the second half to go up 29-6.
Marvin Harrison caught a tipped 5-yard pass for the first touchdown and Graves teamed with Shelby Hill on a 61-yard pass play for the second.
Pat O’Neill, who began Syracuse’s scoring with a 26-yard field goal, added field goals of 50 and 25 yards.
Ball State found ways to bend the Syracuse defense, but couldn’t break into the end zone until tailback Mike Blair scored on an 8-yard run with 5:59 to play. Syracuse opened the door for Ball State with a 15-yard late hit penalty that came at the end of Blair’s 27-yard run and gave Ball State the ball at the Syracuse 15.
Syracuse controlled the opening half, forcing the Cardinals to punt on four of their six possessions after running just three plays each time. Kicker Matt Swart, who was short on a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter, finally gave Ball State its first points with a 19-yarder with 57 seconds remaining in the half. Swart added a 40-yarder in the third quarter.
Syracuse moved the ball easily for most of the half, amassing 265 yards, but the Orangemen at times did not look crisp.
The Orangemen had to settle for O’Neill’s field goal on their opening possession after tight end Eric Chenoweth, with only one career catch to his credit, dropped an easy 8-yard touchdown pass.
Tailback Terry Richardson fumbled on Syracuse’s next possession after Hill carried a reverse 24 yards into Ball State territory.
Syracuse finally got its high-powered offense going in the second quarter as Graves asserted himself. He connected with Hill on passes of 25 and 18 yards, and later hit tailback Kirby Dar Dar with a 15-yarder to set up Al Wooten’s touchdown run from inside the 1.
Graves ran for 21 and 20 yards on the next drive, before tossing a 7-yard touchdown pass to Richardson to give Syracuse a 16-0 lead with 9:21 to play.