The Dino Babers era got underway Friday night at the Carrier Dome and showed signs of paying off on what Babers had promised. Syracuse’s offense played at a fast pace and their defense played a solid game, allowing them to cruise to a 33-7 home victory over FCS opponent Colgate in the season debut of both teams.
While SU finished just shy of a one minute advantage in time of possession, they ran 81 offensive plays compared to the Raiders’ 56. That offense also rolled up 554 yards on the night, displaying an impressively efficient pass game where two different quarterbacks connected on 40-of-46 passes. Sophomore Eric Dungey looked mostly comfortable in his first game in the uptempo offense, completing 34-of-40 passes for 355 yards and a pair of scores.
The Orange defense also put in a strong effort, permitting only 143 yards on the night, with 75 of them coming on Colgate’s opening drive. A fair amount of that defensive dominance can be attributed to the athletic difference between the teams, but Syracuse allowed only one score on a dozen Raider possessions.
That Colgate score came on the opening drive of the night. The Orange defense actually forced a three-and-out the first set of downs, but a penalty on the punt gave Colgate a first down. The Raiders then drove the length of the field and scored a touchdown for a 7-0 lead with six minutes elapsed.
SU responded with their fast-paced offense needing only 1:45 of game time to post a touchdown of their own. Eric Dungey capped the drive by connecting on a deep ball with Amba Etta-Tawo for a 43-yard touchdown pass. Cole Murphy tacked on the extra point to tie the game at seven.
The Syracuse offense was not as effective on their second drive, but still moved 72 yards and converted a fourth-and-one at midfield before settling for a 32-yard field goal from Murphy to take a 10-7 lead on the second play of the second quarter.
Defensive end Chris Slayton ended the following Colgate drive with a sack that forced a punt. On the first play after that change of possession, freshman running back Moe Neal took a handoff and darted through the Raider defense for a 49-yard touchdown burst on the first touch of his collegiate career. Murphy’s extra point gave SU a 17-7 lead less than three minutes into the second quarter.
The fourth Syracuse possession got another deep pass from Dungey to Etta-Tawo, this time for 37 yards, to get into scoring range. Again, the Orange would take three points, as Murphy put a 41-yard field goal inside the left upright to extend their lead to 20-7 with under three minutes left in the opening half.
The opening SU possession of the third quarter showed a little more of Dino Babers’ mindset, as the coach opted to have his offense go for it on a fourth-and-one from their own 26. Dungey and Etta-Tawo connected for a first down and the team would drive for another field goal try. Murphy again was successful, this time from 32 yards out, making the Syracuse lead 23-7.
The Orange offense again went to the Dungey-Etta-Tawo connection on their next drive, this time connecting for 40 yards on the opening play of the possession to again get into Murphy’s range. Again, Murphy made it pay off when SU faced fourth down, booting a 33-yard field goal to extend the lead to 26-7 just past the midpoint of the third quarter.
Syracuse would close out the scoring on the night early in the fourth quarter. On third-and-goal from the four, Dungey eluded a couple pass rushers and floated a pass toward a crowd in the end zone. Fortunately, Erv Philips pulled the ball out of the air for a touchdown. Murphy’s extra point gave the Orange a 33-7 lead a couple minutes into the final quarter and the game would end with that score.
Eric Dungey was accurate throughout the night, hitting on 34-of-40 passes for 355 yards and a pair of scores. Amba Etta-Tawo was the big play threat for the Orange, rolling up 210 yards and a score on 12 receptions, but did not lead the team in that second category. Erv Philips had that honor, tying Art Monk with a Syracuse record 14 receptions in a game. Philips gained 87 yards on those 14 catches. The SU rush attack was paced by Moe Neal, who collected 68 yards on nine carries, most of them coming on his 49-yard touchdown burst.
Chris Slayton was a force for the Syracuse defense, 1.5 sacks on the night. Jonathan Thomas had a pair of tackles for loss, including a quarterback sack.
The Orange open ACC play in their next contest when #19 Louisville (1-0) visits the Carrier Dome on Friday night. The Cardinals had their way with Charlotte in their home opener, as quarterback Lamar Jackson was responsible for eight touchdowns in a 70-14 rout. Friday’s contest will get underway at 8:00pm Eastern and be televised on ESPN2.