Syracuse's Qadry Ismail worried Ohio State. But it was Marvin Graves, Shelby Hill and Antonio Johnson who beat the Buckeyes.
While Ismail caught one pass for 57 yards to set up a field goal, Hill and Johnson scored touchdowns on pass plays from Graves covering 50 and 60 yards, respectively, to lead the 16th-ranked Orangemen to a 24-17 victory in the Hall of Fame Bowl on Wednesday.
Johnson's touchdown broke a 17-17 tie with 7:05 remaining. The Buckeyes fell behind during the first quarter on Hill's touchdown play and a three-yard run by Graves, who passed for a personal-best 309 yards, and never fully recovered.
"We felt going into the game that their skill people were the whole secret to the game," Ohio State Coach John Cooper said.
"Then you look up at the scoreboard, and all of a sudden you're behind, 14-0. There's no way you can emulate their speed in practice."
Syracuse (10-2) ended the season with a six-game winning streak. No. 25 Ohio State (8-4) finished with consecutive losses.
Ohio State trailed, 14-3, at halftime and didn't get its offense on track until after Syracuse's John Biskup kicked a 32-yard field goal to give the Orangemen a 17-3 lead.
Carlos Snow then returned the kickoff 50 yards to midfield. He later scored on a two-yard run to make the score 17-10. The Buckeyes tied the score midway through the fourth quarter when Steve Tovar blocked Pat O'Neill's punt at the Syracuse 15 and Tito Paul recovered in the end zone.
Syracuse came right back. Ismail returned the kickoff 15 yards to the 37, and Graves passed to Johnson for the score less than a minute later.
"Nobody pushed the panic button," Syracuse Coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "We knew that to win this game we had to play as a team. We would have to stay together.
Graves was 18 for 31 with one interception. Johnson had four receptions for 85 yards and Hill caught three for 62.
Graves' touchdown on a quarterback draw capped a 12-play, 78-yard drive that made the score 14-0 on the last play of the first quarter. Kerry Ferrell ran 24 yards on a wide-receiver reverse and had receptions of 13 and 21 yards to set up the score.
Ohio State put together two drives during the second quarter but was stopped on downs at the Syracuse one-yard-line and settled for a 34-yard field goal by Tim Williams on the other. On the goal-line stand, Syracuse stopped the Buckeyes on three consecutive plays from the one.
"There's no question that our inability to score when we got the ball to the one-yard-line hurt us," Cooper said. "We went to a three-back offense and ran our best play, and they still stopped it."
The loss was the third in a row for Ohio State in bowl games under Cooper, who has a 21-1 record against teams with losing records but a 6-17-2 mark against opponents with winning records since replacing Earle Bruce in 1988.
Cooper also has come under fire because he is 0-4 against Michigan, 4-16-2 against opponents that have wound up going to bowl games and 2-12-1 against ranked teams.
Kirk Herbstreit made his second start of the season at quarterback for Ohio State and played the entire game while Kent Graham, No. 1 most of the year, was benched for the last game of his college career. Herbstreit completed 14 of 32 passes for 174 yards.
Ismail, brother of Raghib (Rocket) Ismail of the Toronto Argonauts, had only one catch, but he returned three kickoffs an average of 22 yards.
"This is what playing in a big game is all about," he said. "This is what all the hype is all about. This is what being an Ismail is all about."