With win over Connecticut, Syracuse off to best start since 1991

Jarveon Howard
Syracuse running back Jarveon Howard breaks free during Syracuse's 51-21 win over UCONN. Mandatory Photo Credit: Initra Marilyn, The Juice Online.

With Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey back after missing over half of the previous game, both the player and the team got off to a hot start against Connecticut. Dungey directed the offense to scores on their first five drives, staking the Orange to a 31-14 lead en route to a 51-21 romp at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

The offensive outburst propelled SU to their first 4-0 start since 1991. That squad finished the campaign with a 10-2 record, capping their season with a New Year’s Day bowl win over Ohio State. The Huskies dropped to 1-3 on the season.

Dungey directed the offense to touchdowns on their first three possessions, blowing open the game in just over 11 minutes of action. Set up by a Josh Black fumble recovery on UConn’s opening possession, the Syracuse offense needed less than three minutes to move 67 yards for a score. Dungey had the honors, fighting his way into the end zone from two yards out, the first of his three rushing touchdowns of the half. Andre Szmyt tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.

Less than three minutes later, Dungey stretched across the goal line for another score and, two-and-a-half minutes after that, he tossed a short pass to tight end Gabe Horan, who got into the corner of the end zone from seven yards out. Szmyt connected on both conversion tries for a 21-0 Orange lead with 3:53 left in the first quarter.

The Huskies struck back with a touchdown, but SU responded with another score before the first quarter was over. Dontae Strickland ripped off a 51-yard run to get into the red zone, but the offense bogged down after that. Szmyt came on to salvage points out of the opportunity, booting a 33-yard field goal from the left hash for a 24-7 lead.

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Connecticut broke into the end zone again to clip the gap to ten points, but Syracuse responded once more. The Orange methodically drove the field for another score, cashing in when Dungey snuck in from a yard out with just over nine minutes left in the second quarter. Szmyt’s extra point made it 31-14 in favor of the Orange, a score that held until half.

Sean Riley gave the Carrier Dome crowd a jolt early in the third quarter, slicing through the Huskies for a 69-yard punt return touchdown. Szmyt made the extra point to make it a 38-14 game, then capped the next SU possession with a 27-yard field goal to make it a 41-14 contest with 4:27 left in the third.

Following a UConn touchdown early in the final quarter, Riley gave the crowd one more highlight. Dungey hit him on a quick slant pass and Riley accelerated through the Huskies, turning the short toss into a 49-yard touchdown reception. Szmyt added the extra point to make it 48-21.

A couple minutes later, Andrew Armstrong pounced on a fumble at the Huskies’ 14. Just over a minute after that, Szmyt capped the scoring in the game with a 25-yard field goal midway through the fourth.

Eric Dungey did not miss a beat, completing 21-of-27 passes for 286 yards and a pair of scores while adding 77 yards and three scores on 16 carries. Moe Neal posted his first career 100-yard rushing game for the Orange, collecting 116 yards on 13 carries. Sean Riley turned a half dozen receptions into 120 yards, part of his 279 all-purpose yards in the game, and Nykeim Johnson paced the team with seven receptions.

Alton Robinson racked up three of SU’s six quarterback sacks. Kendall Coleman, Antwan Cordy, and Kielan Whitner were credited with the others. Cordy also had a forced fumble while Andrew Armstrong and Josh Black each had a fumble recovery. Andre Cisco had a third Orange turnover, intercepting his fourth pass of the season late in the fourth quarter.

The Orange return to the road next Saturday for a highly anticipated matchup with #3 Clemson. The Tigers (4-0, 1-0 ACC) will undoubtedly have revenge on their minds after SU tripped them up last season at the Carrier Dome, 27-24.

Clemson won their conference opener on Saturday, jumping out to a 21-0 lead en route to a 49-21 romp over Georgia Tech. Trevor Lawrence threw for four touchdowns in the game while Travis Etienne rolled up 122 yards on 11 carries, including his fifth rushing touchdown of the season. The Tigers’ defense held the Yellow Jackets to 203 total yards in the game.

It will be a noon Eastern kickoff from Death Valley on Saturday. ABC will televise the game, which will also be streamed online at ESPN3.com.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 499 Articles
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.