Year two of Babers’ Ball got off to a fast, as in #Orangeisthenewfast, start on Friday night with a 50-7 thrashing of the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils. Syracuse raced out to a 31-0 halftime lead and never looked back. There was plenty to be excited about for Orange fans.
Syracuse’s signal caller was in total control of the offense. Dungey finished 28-for-36 for 328 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. And in typical Dungey fashion, he used his legs to gain 51 yards on nine carries while finding the end zone twice. Syracuse’s bowl hopes rest on Dungey’s ability to stay on the field and out of the trainer’s room. The Orange will go as far as the junior’s arm, and legs, takes it.
Spreading the Wealth
Both Dungey and Rex Culpepper, who relieved Dungey in the third quarter, did a great job of finding the open receiver. Eleven different Syracuse players hauled in a combined 37 completions. Five of those catches went for 20, 29, 34, 42, and 52 yards proving that the big play is still alive and well in the Orange arsenal. Defensive coordinators will have their hands full game-planning for Syracuse if Dungey continues to utilize his entire stabile of pass catchers from anywhere on the field. You know, since #Orangeisthenewfast.
Amba Etta-Tawo almost single-handedly ignited the Orange passing attack last year as the grad transfer finished his only Syracuse season with 1,482 yards on 94 receptions and 14 touchdowns. Replacing that type of production is never easy, but, Syracuse just might have an answer. Senior receiver Steve Ishmael torched the Blue Devils for 134 yards on 12 catches. Those 12 grabs are already one quarter of the passes Ishmael caught all last season. And while it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to replicate Etta-Tawo’s monster campaign, Ishmael and Erv Philips should prove to be one of the more potent combos in the entire ACC.
Conversions and Discipline
Two things that are drive-killers are failing to convert on third down and penalties. Syracuse performed well in both departments. The Orange finished 11-for-19 on third down while also succeeding on its only fourth down attempt. And Syracuse was flagged for only four penalties for 28 yards.
Of course, not everything was all sunshine, rainbows, and #Orangeisthenewfast. Babers and his staff will have a few areas to clean up as the Middle Tennessee game approaches.
Continuing a trend from last season, Syracuse struggled to run the ball. Dungey’s 51 yards led the team. Not exactly what Babers was looking for. True freshman Markenzy Pierre impressed in his debut with 46 yards on nine carries, 5.1 YPR. But featured backs Dontae Strickland and burner Moe Neal accumulated only 45 yards on 19 attempts. Syracuse finished with 155 yards on 41 carries; less than four yards per attempt. Babers and his staff need to find a way to ramp up the ground attack if they don’t want to see teams continually focus solely on slowing down Dungey and the receiving corps.
Syracuse lost the turnover battle by losing two fumbles while only recovering one. And the Orange defense failed to snag an interception. With Syracuse’s quick-strike capabilities, converting turnovers into points will allow the Orange to put even more pressure on opposing offenses and defenses as teams will either need to keep pace with SU on the scoreboard or keep Dungey and Co. out of the end zone.
Brisly Estime was a real weapon for last year’s squad when it came to field position given his ability to make something out of nothing. Estime averaged nearly 18 YPR. Ishmael and Sean Riley combined for a whopping seven yards on five returns.
Granted, Syracuse beat up on an FCS opponent, so, take the results with a grain of salt. Things are apt to get more interesting this weekend as former coach Scott Shafer, now the defensive coordinator for Middle Tennessee, attempts to slow down #Orangeisthenewfast when the Blue Raiders invade the Dome.