With Syracuse leading, 36-28, and 1:24 remaining, Kansas State wide receiver Adrian Hilburn sprinted 30 yards towards the end zone, supplying the Wildcats the critical touchdown they needed. In his moment of jubilation, he saluted the crowd, an act he and the Wildcats would pay for -- in many eyes, unfairly. He was slapped with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, making the required two-point conversion 15 yards farther back. Kansas State was unable to complete the conversion, and Syracuse took three knees to seal the contest, 36-34.
Leading up to the game, all the attention was on Kansas State's Daniel Thomas, with Syracuse's Delone Carter spending most of the time in the shadows. He would get his revenge, securing the Most Valuable Player award on 199 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He also contributed a crucial 60-yard run which set up what would be the game-winning field goal, a 36-yard boot from Orange kicker Ross Krautman.
Marcus Sales was also a hero for the Orange, catching five passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns. In his final score, he blew past the Wildcats secondary for a wide-open reception, giving Syracuse the lead, 33-28. Kansas State had been leading, 28-27.
Carter began exacting his damage in the third quarter, giving the Orange a 21-14 lead on a seven-yard touchdown rush.
Kansas State answered right back, plowing down the field and scoring on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Coffman to Harper. That tied the game at 21.
Carter then scored again, running for 15 yards to put the Orange back ahead. It would be short-lived, however, as a missed extra point gave Thomas the chance to put Kansas State ahead. He did so, punching one in early in the fourth and giving the Wildcats -- at the time -- the 28-27 advantage.
The first half featured some remarkable symmetry. Not only were the two teams tied at 14, but both of their scores involved the same personnel.
Kansas State struck in the first minute on a Thomas 51-yard touchdown run. For Thomas, it was an early statement against the vaunted Syracuse run defense, one he would struggle to make the rest of the game in terms of yardage. Of course, he still managed to find the end zone three times.
The Orange answered with a bit of trickery, igniting their offense with a patented flea flicker. Nassib received the toss-back and hurled it 52 yards downfield to Sales for the touchdown.
In the second quarter, Nassib again connected with Sales, this time for a 36-yard score. Sales duked defenders as he caught the ball in stride.
With time in the half trickling down, the Wildcats reverted back to Thomas again, handing it off for a 10-yard touchdown. That knotted the match at 14-14, entering the break.
Notes: Both teams attempted flea flickers and both were successful. Special teams would prove critical, as a missed extra point nearly cost Syracuse the game and Kansas State failed on a fake field goal attempt. Kansas State completed 3 of 4 fourth-down conversions, two of which kept them alive in the game.