SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Terrel Hunt scored on a 6-yard run to break a scoreless tie in the third quarter, freshman defensive end Isaiah Johnson set up another score with an interception moments later, and Syracuse beat Wake Forest 13-0 on Saturday.
It was a critical game for the Orange's postseason hopes. Syracuse (4-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) has road games against Maryland and No. 3 Florida State in the next two weeks and finishes the season at home against Pittsburgh and Boston College.
It marked the Orange's first league shutout since a 42-0 Big East win over Rutgers in 1996. The Demon Deacons' deepest penetration in the game was the Syracuse 32 in the first half. Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4 ACC) had won two of three and nearly upset No. 7 Miami a week ago, losing 24-21 after leading the entire game when the Hurricanes scored in the final minute.
Coming off a bye week, the Syracuse defense forgot about its last game, a 56-0 road loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago, as the Orange turned the tables on Wake Forest, holding the Demon Deacons scoreless in the first half en route to its second shutout of the season. Only problem was, Syracuse didn't score, either, extending its offensive ineptitude to six straight quarters.
That changed midway through the third quarter when Syracuse took the second-half kickoff and drove 75 yards in 14 plays. Jerome Smith had 33 yards on six carries and Hunt mixed it up just a little bit as the Orange converted three straight third-down plays after a dismal first half.
Hunt hit Brisly Estime for 13 yards and Jarrod West for 15 to set up a first-and-goal from the 1. The Orange overcame their sixth penalty of the game when Hunt scored on a keeper up the middle at 8:52.
Syracuse struck again less than three minutes later after Johnson's nifty play. He batted Tanner Price's pass in the air and made a diving catch at the Wake Forest 25. After taking a handoff on the next play, West hit a wide-open Estime in the right corner of the end zone, but Jason Whitlock blocked the extra-point attempt and the Orange led 13-0 with 6:06 left.
Prince-Tyson Gulley's 67-yard run gave the Orange another chance to score early in the fourth quarter, but Charlie Loeb was stopped at the goal line on a fake field goal attempt.
Syracuse, which was held to only 75 yards rushing on 26 carries against the Yellow Jackets after gaining over 300 yards against both Clemson and North Carolina State, netted only 31 yards on 15 carries in the first half Saturday. But the Orange finished with a flourish, gaining 152 in the second half.
Hunt was 18 of 30 for 144 yards and Estime finished with nine catches for 62 yards.
Wake Forest wideout Michael Campanaro, who entered the game third all-time in the ACC with 227 catches, was shaken up in the first quarter and left the game with an injury to his left shoulder. Campanaro, who has six TD catches on the season, had two receptions for 11 yards to move within three receptions of Aaron Kelly, who had 232 catches at Clemson from 2005-08.
That sure didn't help. Price, who has accounted for 62 touchdowns in his career (51 passing, 10 rushing, 1 receiving) finished 22 of 54 for 173 yards passing. Sherman Ragland III picked up the slack for the injured star with 10 catches for 91 yards, both career highs.
In the first quarter, the teams combined to fail on all nine third-down conversion attempts and notched just three first downs and 99 yards of total offense while punting four times apiece. Wake Forest had two first downs nullified by penalties in the opening half, and when Syracuse finally began a march midway through the second quarter, Hunt was sacked for an 8-yard loss on a third-and-10 play on the Orange's first foray into Wake Forest territory.
The Orange also squandered a 43-yard catch by West that gave Syracuse a first down at the Wake 30 with time winding down in the second. Penalties on consecutive plays for illegal substitution, its second of the game for that infraction, and holding forced the 14th punt of the game as the teams entered the half tied 0-0.
Syracuse was without sophomore kicker Ryan Norton, who was suspended for one game following his arrest last week for underage possession of alcohol and resisting arrest.
Former Syracuse star Donovan McNabb, one of the greatest quarterbacks in school history, had his No. 5 jersey retired at halftime.
Follow Kekis on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Greek1947
Nike Men's Syracuse Orange Team Issue Performance Orange/Blue PoloShop
SEC Network's Maria Taylor, Marcus Spears and Kevin Weidl discuss the fit for QB Brandon Allen at Jacksonville and RB Jonathan Williams at Buffalo.
SEC Network's Maria Taylor, Marcus Spears and Kevin Weidl discuss the former Mississippi State QB's potential with the Cowboys.
SEC Network's Marcus Spears and Kevin Weidl discuss the SEC players that will have the biggest overall impact in the NFL.
SEC Network's Marcus Spears and Kevin Weidl break down the best fits for offense and defense, and players with the most upside from Day 3 of the Draft.
The Browns drafted former Arizona LB Scooby Wright III in the seventh round of the NFL draft, and he celebrated by jumping into the pool fully clothed.
Oregon's Pharaoh Brown once faced amputation for a horrific leg injury. But he has come all the way back and starred in Oregon's spring game.