Saturday night, Syracuse dug themselves a quick hole and ended up making that hole a little too deep to get out of, eventually falling at #25 Louisiana State, 35-26. Eric Dungey threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage, allowing the Tigers (3-1) to get on the board nine seconds into the game and the Orange (2-2) had to play from behind the rest of the night.
That margin eventually grew to 18 points when LSU struck for an 87-yard touchdown pass on the first play following halftime. SU scrapped back from that 21-3 deficit, but could never get closer than two points before giving up the clinching score late in the game.
That opening interception set up LSU a yard outside of the Syracuse end zone and a quick handoff gave the hosts a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Eric Dungey settled down early on the following Orange possession as the SU offense ignored the run, barely handing off and often lining up in empty backfield sets.
The drive bogged down in the red zone and Dungey had an interception in the end zone overturned by review. The review gave Cole Murphy a chance at a 42-yard field goal and he connected from the right hash, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 7-3 midway through the first.
The defenses owned most of the rest of the first half, permitting the occasional first down, but forcing the teams to trade punts. Sterling Hofrichter played a big part for Syracuse, as he twice pinned LSU inside their ten with punts that the Orange coverage units downed.
The Tigers struck late in the second quarter, getting a 43-yard touchdown pass to stretch their lead to 14-3 with 1:15 left in the opening half. SU could only muster one first down before punting back to LSU prior to the intermission.
The Tigers opened the second half with a deep ball that turned into an 87-yard touchdown, stretching their lead to 21-3. The Orange responded with a touchdown drive of their own, moving 75 yards in eight plays.
Steve Ishmael kept the drive going when he outleaped two defenders for a 28-yard reception to convert on third down, then his fellow wide receiver, Devin C. Butler, completed a touchdown pass to finish the drive. Butler who played quarterback in high school, took a handoff on a jet sweep, then found Erv Philips for a 30-yard scoring pass. Murphy’s extra point made it 21-10 less than three minutes into the third quarter.
Two possessions later, LSU got into the end zone again, stretching their lead back out to 18 points. The Orange were forced to punt on their next possession and Hofrichter’s kick was downed at the Tigers’ one for the second time in the game. Linebacker Parris Bennett blew up the first LSU play from scrimmage, knifing through the line to snuff out a run and give SU a safety, making it a 28-12 game.
Syracuse played aggressively on their next possession, converting a fourth down in LSU territory on a handoff to Philips and eventually breaking through when Dungey ran the ball in from 14 yards out. Murphy tacked on the conversion to cut the Tiger lead to 28-19 with seven seconds left in the third.
LSU responded by driving into Syracuse territory, but Juwan Dowels ended the threat with an interception at the SU 20. The Orange needed a roughing the passer call to convert a third-and-19 on the following drive, but took advantage of the good fortune, finishing the drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Dungey to Ishmael. Murphy added the extra point to pull SU within 28-26 with 5:40 to play.
Head coach Dino Babers opted for an onside kick, but the Tigers were able to secure the kick, then grind out a touchdown drive. The extra point gave the hosts a 35-26 lead with under two minutes to play. SU failed to generate a first down on their last possession and LSU downed the ball twice to erase the remaining time and secure their win.
Eric Dungey threw 53 passes in the game, tying his own mark for the third-most in a contest in school history. He completed 32 of those passes for 265 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Steve Ishmael and Erv Philips each had 11 receptions and a touchdown with the former logging his fourth consecutive game of at least 100 receiving yards, registering 123 yards on the night.
Parris Bennett’s safety came on one of his three tackles for loss in the game and the senior linebacker led the Orange defense with a dozen total tackles. Juwan Dowels’ interception was the lone turnover forced by SU while Kayton Samuels had one sack and Kendall Coleman and Austin Valdez split another.
The Orange will open conference play on Saturday when they travel to North Carolina State. The Wolfpack (3-1, 1-0 ACC) are coming off a huge win, as they dropped #12 Florida State on Saturday, 27-21. SU finds themselves occupying an intriguing spot in N.C. State’s schedule, as the ‘Pack hosts #2 Clemson on the Thursday following their matchup with Syracuse.
Quarterback Ryan Finley is the top threat for North Carolina State, having completed over 74 percent of his passes for over 300 yards per game, including 415 yards at South Carolina in their opener.
The Syracuse-N.C. State game will start at 12:20pm Eastern and can be seen online on ESPN3.com.