It’s more than fair to say that Syracuse walk-on quarterback Zack Mahoney held his own against No. 8 LSU on Saturday in his first college start. Mahoney completed 16 of 38 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns to one interception in a 34-24 loss.
But Mahoney’s performance against the Tigers becomes even more impressive when you compare it to his predecessors.
I took a look back at the last 11 seasons of Syracuse quarterbacks in their first starts against ranked opponents, and the results were not pretty.
The sample size is fairly large, with 10 quarterbacks who have taken the field against ranked opponents.
Take a look:
|Austin Wilson||11/8/14||No. 22 Duke||11/19||68||0||2||L, 27-10|
|AJ Long||10/11/14||No. 1 FSU||16/27||167||2||2||L, 38-20|
|Terrel Hunt||10/5/13||No. 2 Clemson||8/24||52||0||3||L, 49-14|
|Drew Allen||9/7/13||No. 22 Northwestern||27/41||279||1||4||L, 48-27|
|Ryan Nassib||10/24/10||No. 20 West Virginia||5/15||63||1||0||W, 19-14|
|Greg Paulus||9/12/09||No. 7 Penn State||14/20||105||1||2||L, 28-7|
|Cameron Dantley||9/14/08||No. 17 Penn State||13/32||110||1||1||L, 55-13|
|Andrew Robinson||9/23/07||No. 18 Louisville||17/26||423||4||0||W, 38-35|
|Perry Patterson||9/25/04||No. 12 Virginia||15/23||141||0||0||L, 31-10|
|Joe Fields||9/5/04||No. 24 Purdue||8/15||93||0||1||L, 51-0|
As I said before, the results aren’t pretty. If you average out the performance of these 10 quarterbacks, you get:
The one thing that stands out about the 10 quarterbacks listed above is the statistical anomaly of Andrew Robinson against then-No. 18 Louisville. But the Cardinals turned out not to be a true top 25 team that season, because they finished 6-6 and missed a bowl game under first year head coach Steve Kragthorpe. And we all know that Robinson had at best a middling career as a starting quarterback.
So if you remove the statistical outlier, and go with the remaining nine quarterbacks, the average performance becomes even more bleak:
Now, compare that with Mahoney’s final line:
|Zack Mahoney||9/26/15||No. 8 LSU||16/38||154||3||1||L, 34-24|
Mahoney’s most impressive statistic compared to prior quarterbacks is the touchdown to interception ratio, which is by far the best if you remove Robinson’s outlier. Also, if you remember, Mahoney’s interception was the result of bad luck, and not necessarily an incorrect read, as the pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
What does all of this mean? Well, not much if freshman quarterback Eric Dungey is healthy by the time SU travels to South Florida on Oct. 10. In the 2.5 games Dungey has played, he’s demonstrated a firm grasp of the offense, with the ability to run the option and throw the ball (he has 5 TDs and 0 interceptions in his young career). Dungey is the quarterback of the present, and the future.
But if Dungey struggles in the first half, it should be comforting to Shafer to know that he has a viable option sitting on his bench. Perhaps this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Mahoney.