Syracuse football wins, surviving late rally from Boston College

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Syracuse moved back to the .500 mark

Syracuse almost went 1-1 on Saturday, but managed to beat Boston College and not themselves. The Orange (4-4, 2-2 ACC) tried their darnedest to submarine their own efforts by turning the ball over three times, giving up five sacks, and committing 16 penalties, but managed to pull out a 28-20 win over BC on a soggy, breezy day in Chestnut Hill. The defeat extended the Eagles’ (3-4, 0-4) ACC losing streak to a dozen while snapping SU’s streak of eight straight conference losses on the road.

The school-record 16 infractions included a half dozen flags for false starts by the Syracuse offense. Fortunately, there were some positive notations made by the Orange in their own record book.

Quarterback Eric Dungey took over second in passing yards in a game for SU with 434, giving him three of the top ten single-game passing yardage marks, all coming this season. He also now stands third in single season passing yards, trailing only Ryan Nassib’s 2011 and 2012 marks and is on pace to take over the top spot by the end of the season. With 66 catches for 1,074 yards on the season, Amba Etta-Tawo now stands seven receptions and 58 yards from owning both single-season marks at Syracuse.

While he would write his name in a couple places of the school record book before the game was over, Eric Dungey ended the first Orange drive with a bad decision, throwing downfield into double coverage. Boston College intercepted the pass and made a long return. Dungey compounded his mistake with an unnecessary roughness penalty for making the tackle out of bounds. Boston College had great field position and, even though they SU defense did not allow a first down, got on the board first with a field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Dungey rebounded on the next possession, completing a beautiful 39-yard strike to a leaping Steve Ishmael as part of a 75-yard drive that Erv Philips would finish on a three-yard touchdown run. While Dungey threw a pass to Philips, who wiggled past a couple defenders and into the end zone, the ball traveled backwards, making it officially a run in the stat book. In any case, Cole Murphy connected on the extra point for a 7-3 Syracuse lead just past the midpoint of the opening quarter.

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Brisly Estime gave the Orange great field position on their next possession with a 27-yard punt return, but once they reached the red zone, SU gave the ball back when Dungey fumbled a snap and the Eagles pounced on the ball.

Two possessions later, Dungey atoned for his error, finding an Philips for an untouched ten-yard touchdown pass. Murphy added the conversion and Syracuse led 14-3 with less than five minutes off the clock in the second quarter.

That double-digit lead was short-lived, as BC returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. The extra point trimmed the Orange lead to 14-10. Again, SU put together a solid drive, but this time came away empty, as Murphy’s 40-yard field goal try from the left hash never crossed the upright, giving the ball to the hosts.

Neither team was able to score in the back half of the second quarter, leaving the four-point Syracuse lead standing at intermission.

After each team punted on their first drive after the break, BC drove into the Orange red zone. Parris Bennett ended that Eagle drive by plucking a bobbled pass out of the air for an interception.

Dungey marched SU 86 yards for a score, finishing the drive with a fade pass to Steve Ishmael in the end zone, who made a leaping, twisting catch for an 11-yard touchdown. Murphy’s extra point was true, giving the Orange a 21-10 lead with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

Again, Syracuse’s 11-point lead was short-lived, as the Eagles got a 75-yard touchdown run from their quarterback on their second play from scrimmage and the extra point again made it a four-point game, this time at 21-17 at the end of the third quarter.

Boston College also scored on their first possession in the fourth quarter, getting a 39-yard field goal to trim the Orange lead to 21-20 with ten minutes showing on the clock.

Three plays later, SU struck for a big play when Dungey hit Amba Etta-Tawo with a deep pass. Etta-Tawo pulled in the ball with his left hand, discarded an off-balance Boston College defender with his right, and cruised into the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown. Murphy added the extra point, extending the Syracuse lead to 28-20 with 9:18 remaining.

The Orange defense forced a punt, but Dungey gave the ball back six plays later when he was stripped while eluding the Boston College pass rush. The Eagles took over at the SU 43 with 4:28 to play.

Boston College got down to the Syracuse 14, but Josh Black made a huge sack for the Orange, costing the hosts 11 yards and setting up a 3rd-and-21. The Eagles got some of the yards back on third down, then had a fourth down pass sailed just out of reach of a receiver in the end zone, giving the ball to SU with only 1:50 separating them from victory.

SU was able to get a first down and eliminate BC’s final two time outs on three rushing plays, then downed the ball twice to bleed out the clock and secure the win.

Eric Dungey had a remarkably efficient day, completing 32-of-38 passes in the game, good for 434 yards and three touchdowns to go with an interception. Four different receivers caught at least five passes and gained at least 78 yards on the day, led by Amba Etta-Tawo’s ten receptions for 144 yards and a touchdown. Steve Ishmael had eight receptions for 108 yards and a score of his own.

Parris Bennett had a team-high 11 tackles on the day to go with an interception. Jonathan Thomas had a fumble recovery and Josh Black recorded a sack.

The Orange get two weeks to savor their modest two-game win streak, as they have a bye next week before facing #4 Clemson on the road on Saturday, November 5. The Tigers (7-0, 4-0) are enjoying their bye this week before traveling to #13 Florida State next week. Game time and television coverage have not been set at this time, but will be announced, at least in part, on Monday.

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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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