Syracuse nearly overcomes nemesis, but rally falls short against Florida State

Syracuse dropped a close game to FSU
Syracuse dropped a close game to FSU

Once again, Syracuse fell short on the road against a team with a big-play offense. This time, Florida State played the role of rude host, scoring three touchdowns that covered more than 50 yards in the first half. The Orange (4-5, 2-3 ACC) fell behind early and could never draw even, as a potential game-tying field goal by Cole Murphy missed as the clock ran out, giving the Seminoles (3-5, 3-4) a 27-24 victory.

Murphy, who made a kick earlier from a yard closer on the same right hash, pushed a 43-yard kick too far to the left, ending the game. The Orange had gained possession at their own 18 with 1:23 on the clock following FSU recovering an onside kick and a quick three-and-out. Eric Dungey, who missed a little over a quarter of the game in the first half with what appears to be a right foot or toe injury, directed SU to the Seminole 25, but Murphy’s kick could not force overtime.

Dungey left after the opening possession of the game, which he ended by throwing an interception. Two plays later, Florida State jumped out to a quick lead on a 51-yard touchdown bomb. The extra point gave the hosts a 7-0 lead just under five minutes into the game.

Zack Mahoney took over the reins for the Syracuse offense and guided the team to the FSU 30 on his second drive, but Cole Murphy’s 48-yard field goal try was blocked, keeping the Orange out of the scoring column with just over a minute left in the opening quarter.

After a Florida State punt pinned SU deep in their own end, the Orange went three-and-out, giving the hosts the ball back at their own 46. Eleven seconds later, the ‘Noles were in the end zone again via a 54-yard touchdown run. The conversion gave them a 14-0 lead just over a minute into the second quarter.

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Two Syracuse possessions later, Dungey returned to the game. Seven plays after his return, on a fourth-and-two from the FSU 47, Dungey found Jamal Custis all alone behind the Seminole secondary. Custis caught the ball at the 20 and coasted to the end zone from there. Murphy booted the extra point, cutting the hosts’ lead to 14-7 just before the midpoint of the second quarter.

Florida State needed only two plays to match the score, capping their drive with a 63-yard touchdown burst. The extra point reinstated their 14-0 point lead at 21-7.

Two Orange possessions later, they scored again. Dungey scampered for 30 yards to get into FSU territory, then hit Steve Ishmael down the right sideline two plays later for a 34-yard touchdown. Murphy connected on the extra point and SU was within 21-14 with 3:16 remaining in the half.

The Syracuse defense forced a quick three-and-out, but their offensive counterparts filed one of their own. The difference, however, is that Florida State muffed the punt from Sterling Hofrichter and Shy Cullen recovered the ball at the Seminole 11 with 1:18 left. Unfortunately, the Orange failed on a fourth-and-three, giving the ball up with no points to show for their good fortune.

After the defense held up once more, the offense bit into the FSU lead again. This time, the offense bogged down at the ‘Noles 24 and Murphy drilled a 42-yard field goal from the right hash. With 9:30 left in the third, SU was within 21-17.

Just over six minutes later, Florida State matched that field goal, getting a 49-yard kick to reinstate their seven-point lead. That score held until just past the midpoint of the fourth quarter when FSU added a 38-yard field goal to stretch their lead to 27-17.

Just under four minutes later, Syracuse responded with a touchdown when Dungey scored on a naked bootleg to the right from three yards out to cap a 14-play, 75-yard drive. Murphy’s extra point sliced the FSU lead to 27-24 with 2:54 to play.

Dino Babers opted to have for an onside kick, but the ‘Noles secured it at their own 47. The SU defense gave up eight yards on first down, but stiffened after that. On third down, Florida State tried a quarterback sneak to pick up one yard, but their quarterback muffed the snap and Orange linebacker Parris Bennett recovered.

Official review, however, ruled that the quarterback recovered the ball with his knee on the ground prior to Bennett wresting the ball away from him, giving possession back to the ‘Noles. FSU then punted, pinning SU at their 18-yard-line.

Dungey scrambled for 21 yards on the first play of the following Syracuse drive, then converted a third-and-14 by throwing to Ishmael for 15 yards. Dungey then picked up another first down by finding Erv Philips for 16 yards and connected with Ishmael two plays later for a gain of nine to the FSU 25.

After an incompletion on third down, Murphy came out for what would be the game-ending field goal miss.

In spite of missing about a quarter of play, Eric Dungey completed 24-of-43 passes for 278 yards with a pair of scores and an interception. Dungey also led the SU ground game with a career-high 109 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. The score lifted him to the top of the SU record book for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 20.

Steve Ishmael and Erv Philips each caught a dozen passes on the day, the former gaining 143 yards with a score and the latter logging 107 yards. Philips’ haul boosted him atop the Syracuse record book for receptions with 207 in his career.

Alton Robinson had a pair of sacks for the Orange defense and Devin M. Butler added one. Zaire Franklin forced a fumble and Shy Cullen was credited with a fumble recovery.

SU will return to the Carrier Dome next Saturday to face Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons (5-4, 2-3) lost for the fourth time in their last five games on Saturday when they fell at #3 Notre Dame, 48-37. Wake trailed by 24 points early in the third quarter before eventually closing the gap with a couple late touchdowns.

Demon Deacon quarterback John Wolford throws for just under 250 yards per game on the season and has posted 17 touchdowns against only three interceptions. Like the Orange’s Eric Dungey, Wolford is also a threat on the ground, having rushed for 400 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.

Game time and television network for next Saturday’s game will be announced on Sunday.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by He currently resides in Syracuse.