The Jackets next host No. 1 Georgia (11-0) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Trailing 24-16 early in the fourth quarter, the Orange put together a six-play, 65-yard drive to get within 24-22 on LaQuint Allen’s 2-yard touchdown run over right guard. Allen tried to roll to his right and threw on the two-point conversion, but his pass into the end zone was broken up by Clayton Powell-Lee.
Tech started its next possession with 7:41 on the clock and went to work, plowing its way down the field in a way to make coach Brent Key, a former Tech offensive lineman, proud. The Jackets melted 5:19 off the clock in a nine-play drive (all nine plays were runs) that ended with King running 19 yards up the middle to glory.
That left 2:22 on the clock, but Tech linebacker Kyle Efford needed only four seconds to bury hopes of a comeback with an interception on the Syracuse 31.
The Jackets ran out the clock from there, then ran and leapt into the student section after the final buzzer had sounded.
Tech came out of the gates in the first half firing on all cylinders and scored on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that took 5:21 off the clock. Haynes capped the series by taking a first-down swing pass in the left flat, cutting back to his right and sprinting toward the middle of the field, where he picked up a block from King. Haynes then barreled over two Syracuse defenders, knocking one of their helmets off, to complete a 15-yard touchdown catch.
Syracuse got on the board with a 44-yard field goal off the right foot of Brady Denaburg.
Early in the second quarter, King was picked off by Isaiah Johnson on a deep pass down the left sideline. The Orange took over at the Tech 39, but could gain only seven yards to set up a 50-yard field-goal attempt for Denaburg, who pushed the ball wide right.
Four plays later, on first down from the 47 after Tech had drawn Syracuse offside on fourth down, King faked a toss sweep and dropped a 53-yard bomb into the hands of Dominick Blaylock down the left side of the field. That gave the Jackets a 14-3 lead with 7:41 left in the half.
Aidan Birr kicked a 22-yard field goal just before the breaking, putting the Jackets up 17-3 at halftime.
Tech held Syracuse to 94 yards of offense in the first half. The Orange were also 0-for-5 on third downs.
Darrell Gill returned the second-half opening kickoff for Syracuse, but when he got out to about his own 25, Tech linebacker Paul Moala knocked the ball from Gill’s arms, and Tech’s Jacob Cruz fell on it at the 30. On the next play from scrimmage, Haynes went straight up the gut for a 30-yard touchdown that made the score 24-3.
The Orange finally found the end zone on the ensuing possession, a drive that covered 71 yards on eight plays and ended with Dan Villari running around right end and stretch the ball out for the pylon at the 10:07 mark of the third quarter.
Haynes fumbled the ball to Syracuse defensive lineman Caleb Okechukwu on Tech’s next offensive play, and the Orange took over at the Tech 41. The Jackets’ defense answered the bell and stuffed Allen on a fourth-and-1 at the 32 to turn the ball over on downs.
Allen got some revenge a couple of minutes later with a 48-yard punt return that set up the Orange at the Tech 18. Allen would score on a 1-yard dive four plays later, getting Syracuse within 24-16 (a bad snap on the extra-point attempt cost the Orange another point).
That’s where the score stood going into the final 15 minutes, a final 15 minutes that sent the Jackets to the postseason.
Allen rushed for 120 yards on 27 carries, and Villari finished with 81. Villari, a tight end playing quarterback, also threw for 59 yards on 14-of-14 passing.