SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Punter Riley Dixon threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Moore on a fake field goal in the second overtime, and Syracuse stopped a 2-point try to beat Villanova 27-26 on Friday night.
"I'm an athlete. I'm a competitor," said Dixon, who attended nearby Christian Brothers Academy. "It was pure joy when it went into Kendall's hands. I'm living the dream."
Villanova's John Robertson connected with tailback Gary Underwood for a 9-yard touchdown strike to pull the Wildcats within one in sweltering conditions in the Carrier Dome. Villanova coach Andy Talley went for the victory with the 2-point conversion attempt, and defensive end Robert Welch stopped Robertson at the 4.
"Syracuse is a great team," Robertson said. We played up to them. We played our hearts out and can use this as a learning experience."
The teams traded field goals in the first overtime.
Villanova's Chris Gough kicked a 25-yard field goal to tie it at 17 with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter, then missed a 25-yarder with 12 seconds left in regulation in the opener for both teams.
Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt was ejected for punching linebacker Dillon Lucas after a 6-yard gain late in the first half.
"The NCAA is getting tough. They want integrity in the game," said Syracuse coach Scott Shafer, who indicated there would be no further discipline for Hunt. "It was the right call."
Hunt was 10 of 17 for 94 yards and ran for 25 yards.
"I was trying to make a play on the ball and I guess he didn't like the way I hit him," Lucas said. When I rolled off him I felt a punch. There were no words exchanged, but maybe it was the way our defense kept pressuring him."
Austin Wilson, a sophomore playing his first game for the Orange, was 11 of 17 for 89 yards in relief of Hunt.
Robertson, the Colonial Athletic Association preseason player of the year, was 16 of 27 for 199 yards. He ran 34 times for another 115 yards, accounting for 314 yards of total offense.
"I really felt like this game was going to be a 14-point spread, maybe even a 20-point spread," Talley said. "I felt like our quarterback had to play great for us to even be in the game and he played great. He was the best quarterback on the field, he kept drives alive."
Robertson eluded Syracuse defenders all night, almost singlehandedly leading the Wildcats to what would have been Syracuse's first loss to an FCS team. Syracuse was the lone FBS team to not allow a 100-yard rusher last season.
"He's the one I wanted meet (after the game)," Shafer said. "He's such a good football player. I've been around football my whole life. That's one gutsy son-of-a-gun."
Wilson led Syracuse on a 13-play, 87-yard touchdown drive at the start of the second half, with Adonis Ameen-Moore scoring from the 2 for a 17-7 lead. Safety Cameron McCurry was called for pass interference on the drive.
"My teammates said, 'Slow it down. Let the game to you,' Wilson said.
Villanova's Poppy Livers returned a punt 67 yards for touchdown, zigzagging across the field and down the right sideline, to cut it to 17-14 late in the third quarter.
Syracuse's Prince Tyson-Gulley opened the scoring midway through the first quarter with a 65-yard run. Tyson-Gulley had 100 yards on 11 carries.
Villanova tied on Kevin Monangai's 5-yard run in the second, and Syracuse made it 10-7 with 6:49 left in the half on Ryan Norton's 38-yard field goal.