The first quarter of Saturday’s game against South Florida at the Carrier Dome went about as well as possible for Syracuse. Unfortunately for the Orange, the remainder of the game went horribly, as the Bulls roared back from a 17-0 deficit and dealt SU a 45-20 loss for Homecoming.
Syracuse (1-2) cashed in their first three possessions, but that was about it for them for meaningful offense. The Orange did roll up 549 yards of offense, but needed 105 plays to do so for an average of 5.2 yards per snap. Meanwhile, the defense, which had held USF (3-0) to 29 yards on their two first quarter possessions, began getting gashed with regularity and ended up giving up 454 yards and 7.1 yards per play.
SU marched 79 yards on the opening possession of the game and Erv Philips finished the drive with a beautiful diving catch in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass from Eric Dungey on third-and-15. Cole Murphy tacked on the extra point and Syracuse held a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the action.
The Orange went into a higher gear on their second possession, capping a 92-yard scoring drive with two big plays. First, Amba Etta-Tawo gained 30 yards on a pass, then Dungey hit Brisly Estime in stride for a 47-yard touchdown pass. Murphy’s extra point gave SU a 14-0 lead, then he finished the next drive by booting a 40-yard field goal from the right hash mark to strengthen the Syracuse lead to 17-0 with 30 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Things went downhill from there for the Orange.
The Bulls moved the ball at will on each of their next two possessions, scoring touchdowns on each one to slice the gap to 17-14 with just over five minutes off the clock in the second quarter.
The Orange offense moved in fits and starts during the second quarter, while South Florida only hit one speed bump. After logging a three-and-out, USF rang up another pair of touchdowns for a 28-17 lead with under a minute left before half. SU was able to move into scoring position in the final seconds of the opening half, but Philips fumbled inside the Bulls’ 30, wiping out a potential field goal try.
The scoreboard settled down in the third quarter, remaining at rest until Syracuse made their second drive of the session produce points. Murphy again connected on a field goal, this one a 48-yarder from the left hash that split the uprights to make it a one-possession game at 28-20 with just under four minutes left in the quarter.
That was more than enough time for USF to score, though, as they added a touchdown to their side of the ledger for a 35-20 lead with just under a minute left in the third. The Bulls did not wait long to score again, getting an 83-yard punt return on the first play of the fourth quarter to blow the game open at 42-20. South Florida then converted a Dungey interception into the final score of the contest, a field goal that put them up by a 45-20 margin with just under nine minutes to play.
Eric Dungey connected on 32-of-48 passes for 350 yards with a pair of scores and a pair of interceptions. Erv Philips had ten receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown while Amba Etta-Tawo snared eight passes for 123 yards. Dontae Strickland paced the Syracuse running attack with 127 yards on 30 carries, logging 108 yards in the first half alone.
Daivon Ellison rolled up 11 tackles for SU and also forced a fumble. Chris Slayton also forced a fumble and Corey Winfield added a sack.
The Orange will hit the road for the first time on the season when they travel to Connecticut next Saturday. The Huskies rallied in the fourth quarter to pull out a 13-10 win over Virginia, boosting their record to 2-1 on the season. Kickoff is set for 1:00pm Eastern and CBS Sports Network will televise the game.