After missing parts of each of his first two seasons due to injury, junior quarterback Eric Dungey once again showed why he is so vital to SU’s bowl chances this season in a 50-7 win over Central Connecticut State.
Dungey went 28-of-36 for 328 yards and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing), tying Ryan Nassib for most 300-yard games in Syracuse history. If the season goes as planned health-wise, he’ll have no problem breaking it.
“He was functioning at a really high level,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said.
As always, the coaching staff held their breath when Dungey took some hard hits. With his clear willingness to put his body on the line, Dungey says he’s just trying to get as many yards as possible, but at the same time, wants to be smarter about it.
In the first half, Dungey plowed forward on a keeper, and was rudely met by a CCSU defender, who caused Dungey to somersault forward, drawing a gasp from the crowd.
But as Babers noted, Dungey landed on his shoulder rather than his head or neck, which has had dangerous results in the past.
“He ran out of bounds today, too,” Babers said. “That’s a start. We’re getting better.”
But Babers doesn’t expect Dungey to completely eliminate his aggressive style of running.
“It makes his game,” Babers said. “A lot of quarterbacks do that stuff and then it affects their accuracy, and their numbers and percentages drop. He does that stuff and he throws for high percentages.”
His teammates have noticed, as well.
“We know that he cares about the game a lot and that pushes us,” Steve Ishmael said. “He’s a great leader and we all look up to him.”
Dungey spent plenty of time looking at Ishmael, too. The quarterback connected with Ishmael 12 times for 134 yards, a performance worthy of former SU star Amba Etta-Tawo.
“Amba was a great motivator for me,” Ishmael said. “Last year was a learning experience. I’ve gotten stronger and learned to appreciate the little things.”
Still, not everything on the offensive side of the ball was as good as Dungey’s prolific night. The Orange struggled to run the ball last year, and it spilled over into the 2017 season opener, as SU accounted for just 155 rushing yards.
There’s always something to work on, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“We were back in the locker room (at half) and none of us were satisfied,” Dungey said. “I’m happy we got the win, but I see so much room for improvement, so that’s what I’m excited for.”
Said Babers: “Football teams grow the most between their first and second game, and we’re looking for a lot of growth coming into our next game.”