Syracuse challenges Notre Dame, but only for a half

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Babers and Syracuse dropped to 2-3

Once again, when facing an opponent with superior athleticism, the Syracuse defense was overwhelmed and their offensive mates were hit-or-miss, leading the Orange to a 50-33 defeat at MetLife Stadium against Notre Dame. SU, who gave up 654 yards of offense and five different scores of over 50 yards, just could not stop the Fighting Irish on either defense or special teams and the offense was inconsistent once more, scoring five touchdowns, but also finishing four drives with three-and-outs.

Even with their troubles, Syracuse (2-3) looked good for stretches on both sides of the ball, rolling up 489 yards on offense while twice logging four consecutive possessions holding the Irish (2-3) out of the end zone. However, their offense just did not retain enough punch after halftime to mount a comeback, mustering only 165 yards after intermission.

Notre Dame scored on the first play from scrimmage, getting a 79-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead. The Orange barely needed two minutes to get into the end zone, capping a 75-yard drive when Eric Dungey faked a toss and waltzed into the end zone from three yards out. Cole Murphy’s extra point kick was blocked and Notre Dame returned it for a two-point conversion to give them a 9-6 lead.

The Irish tacked on a touchdown on their next possession, but SU responded once more. This time, Dungey hit Amba Etta-Tawo with a long pass. One cutback and a handful of strides later, Etta-Tawo was in the end zone for a 72-yard touchdown. Murphy added on the extra point to make it 16-13. Notre Dame responded by hitting on another big play, this time returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown and a 23-13 lead before the game was five minutes old.

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Both defenses settled down for a while, but Syracuse was the first to break through after that. After Dungey hit on passes of 23 and 36 yards, he snuck across the goal line from one yard out on fourth-and-goal for a touchdown. Murphy added the conversion to slice the Irish lead to 23-20 in the opening minutes of the second quarter.

Notre Dame responded with a touchdown to reinstate their ten-point lead, then added a field goal with just over five minutes left in the second for a 33-20 lead. Following the next Irish possession, Brisly Estime returned a punt 74 yards for the ND 14. Two plays later, Dungey connected with Erv Philips from that distance for a touchdown pass. Murphy’s extra point drew SU within 33-27 with 30 seconds left in the opening half.

Zaire Franklin gave the Orange a chance to score again, coming up with an interception on Notre Dame’s next play and returning the ball to the Irish 34. Murphy could not convert it into points, though, leaving his 40-yard field goal attempt outside the left upright on the half’s final play.

The Syracuse offense could not threaten the Irish on their first two opportunities of the second half, but Notre Dame could and did, converting their first two possessions into touchdowns. The latter of those two scores gave them a 47-27 lead before the midpoint of the third quarter.

The Orange finally threatened in the waning seconds of the third, but Dungey’s pass to Philips on fourth-and-goal was broken up, giving Notre Dame the ball. The Irish converted that opportunity into three more points, getting a field goal to push their lead to 23 points.

SU finally got into the end zone on their next possession when Dungey scrambled in from five yards out, stretching the ball across the goal line for a score. The snap on the extra point was botched, leaving the score at 50-33, where it would remain until time ran out.

Eric Dungey completed 31-of-51 passes on the day for 363 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also added three scores on the ground as part of his team-high 49 rushing yards. Amba Etta-Tawo paced the receivers with seven grabs for 134 yards and a score.

Parris Bennett was credited with a game-high 17 tackles. Zaire Franklin had a sack and interception to go along with nine stops. Josh Black and De’Jon Wilson were also each credited with a half-sack in the game.

Syracuse returns to action next Saturday when they travel to Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons (4-1, 1-1 ACC) suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday when they were upended at North Carolina State, 33-16. Kickoff between the Orange and Wake is set for 7:00pm Eastern and the game will be televised regionally, as well as be available online at ESPN3.com.

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.
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