EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – With Terrel Hunt slowed and Prince-Tyson Gulley stacked up, Syracuse was unable to take advantage of Notre Dame's mistakes.
Hunt and Gulley managed just 55 yards on the ground, and the Orange defense was helpless to stop Everett Golson and the No. 8 Fighting Irish in a 31-15 loss Saturday night.
Golson completed 25 straight passes, setting a Notre Dame record, and threw for four touchdowns.
Hunt passed for 294 yards, much after falling behind big, and ran for only 26. He came in as the team's leading rusher, averaging 7.0 per carry.
"I figured tonight that I wasn't going to be able to run the ball," said Hunt, who was nursing a hip injury. "Penalties hurt us. We were messing up when we got there. I think we were also a little anxious when we realized we were in the red zone."
The Fighting Irish said stopping Hunt was priority No. 1.
"That was the main goal," linebacker Jaylon Smith said. "Everything we did was based on that."
Gulley came in averaging 7.8 per carry and was held to 29 yards on eight carries.
"Notre Dame is really disciplined and strong in what they were doing to us. But we didn't get the job done," Gulley said.
Golson's record-breaking game was far from perfect. He threw his first two interceptions of the season, including one returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter by Durell Eskridge. He fumbled the ball away deep in Syracuse territory and bumbled an attempt to spike the ball late in the first half into another giveaway.
A total of five turnovers by the Irish (4-0) allowed Syracuse (2-2) to linger. Hunt's 7-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter cut the lead to 21-9.
Golson came right back with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Torii Hunter Jr., son of the major league outfielder. Golson was 32 for 39 for a career-best 362 yards, coming one completion short of matching the FBS record for consecutive completions in a game set by Dominique Davis in 2011 with East Carolina. Notre Dame officials were claiming it was 26 straight for Golson, unsure about whether a penalty had wiped out one.
Syracuse has tried to turn MetLife Stadium into a home-away-from-home, but it's not working out so well for the university that calls itself New York's college team.
The Orange have played Southern California, Penn State and Notre Dame at the home of the Jets and Giants over the past three seasons, and lost each time. They return to the Swamps of Jersey in 2016 to take on the Irish again.
The Irish and Orange are now conference mates of sorts. Notre Dame competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference for everything but football, and has a scheduling agreement with the league to play five of its teams per season.
This game scheduled years ago was the first of those ACC games for the Irish, who were never really tested by the Orange.
The Irish's fourth turnover, a fumble by Greg Bryant inside the Syracuse 30 late in the third quarter, led to the Orange's first touchdown. After Hunt's TD, Jarron Jones blocked the extra point for the Irish.
A nice start to the season has put Golson in the Heisman Trophy discussion, for what it's worth in September. This uneven performance in a win probably didn't hurt the cause too much. Golson had two turnovers in the first quarter, losing a fumble after a nifty scramble and throwing an interception on a pass that sailed badly.
The junior got it together in the second quarter, throwing TD passes of 23 and 72 yards to Will Fuller to make it 14-0.
After a Syracuse field goal, the Irish had a chance to add to the lead with a late first-half score, but Golson bobbled the ball away while trying to kill the clock with a spike. He slapped the ball to the ground and it bounced a few yards away with most of the players just standing around, watching it roll. Syracuse's Julian Whigham raced in, picked the ball up and took off toward the end zone.
Syracuse thought it had a fumble return for a touchdown. Notre Dame figured it was an incomplete pass.
After a review, the officials split the difference. Golson's goof was ruled a fumble, but because officials had blown the play dead the ball was given to the Orange with no advancement.
"I'm not going to lose sleep over it," coach Scott Shafer said. "I guess the Luck of the Irish went their way."