Dungey’s 200 rushing yards props up shaky outing by Syracuse defense

Syracuse head coach Dino Babers looks on from the sidelines. Mandatory Photo Credit: Raj Mehta, USA Today Sports.

Eric Dungey opened the 2018 Syracuse football season with a bang, directing the team to scores on his first nine drives at the helm, even while sitting out nearly a quarter of action.  The end result was the Orange claiming a 55-42 win at Western Michigan in the season debut of both teams.

Dungey’s statistical production was not great with his arm, as there are still some kinks to be worked out with SU’s inexperienced receiving corps, but he more than made up for it with his legs.  Dungey set both school and ACC records for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game, rolling up 200 yards on 15 carries and adding a score.  The quarterback’s efforts were part of an impressive five rushing scores by the team.

Syracuse was got on the board early and often.  Less than four minutes into the game, Dungey started the night’s scoring barrage by hitting Jamal Custis in the left corner of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown.  Andre Szmyt added the extra point for a 7-0 lead, then added a 26-yard field goal just over two minutes later to cash in on Andre Cisco’s interception that gave SU great field position.

The Orange made it three drives for three scores in under two minutes each when Moe Neal powered in for a one-yard score set up by another Dungey-to-Custis connection of 38 yards.  Szmyt’s kick made it 17-0 with 6:39 left in the opening quarter.

Western Michigan notched a touchdown three minutes later, but Syracuse still had enough time to respond with one of their own before the first quarter ended.  Custis again got the Orange in close with a reception to the hosts’ four-yard-line and, two plays later, Neal scored from three yards out.  The conversion made it a 24-7 game.

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SU’s first possession of the second quarter ate up the most time of any scoring drive of the night, but still lasted under three minutes.  Dontae Strickland had the honors this time, powering into the end zone from a yard out.  Szmyt’s extra point gave Syracuse a 31-7 lead just over three minutes into the second.

Szmyt would add more points on the sixth SU drive, this time booting a 43-yard field goal to extend the lead to 34-7 with 9:25 left in the opening half.

Tommy DeVito took snaps on the next five drives for the Orange, but could never consistently move the ball.  The Broncos added three touchdowns in that time, one aided by a Ravian Pierce fumble on the first play of the second half.  The scores clipped the SU lead to 34-28 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.

Dungey returned to the game on the ensuing possession and the Syracuse offense began to run efficiently once more.  The senior once more found Custis, who this time made a stellar one-handed snag and sprinted into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown.  Szmyt’s kick boosted the Orange lead to 41-28.

After WMU responded with a touchdown, the Orange struck back again.  Dungey connected with Custis on a bomb down the right sideline for 50 yards to get inside the Western Michigan ten.  Two plays later, Strickland again carried the ball in from a yard out and Szmyt’s extra point made it a 48-35 game with less than a minute left in the third.

Kielan Whitner blunted the next Bronco drive on the first play of the fourth quarter with an interception and returned the ball to their 27.  Dungey ran the ball in on the next play, giving SU some breathing room once more.  Szmyt’s conversion made it a 55-35 game.

Kenyon Coleman ended the next Western Michigan drive with a sack on fourth down and the Orange offense went into clock-killing mode.  SU ate up over seven minutes of clock on their next drive before turning the ball over on downs at the WMU two-yard-line.

Western retaliated with a touchdown drive and opted for an onside kick, but Strickland returned the ball to Broncos’ 20.  The Syracuse offense ground up the remaining clock, ending the game at the hosts one-yard-line.

In addition to his record night on the ground, Eric Dungey completed only 7-of-19 passes for 184 yards and a pair of scores.  Jamal Custis was the primary beneficiary, snagging a half dozen passes for 168 yards and both of those touchdowns.  Moe Neal and Dontae Strickland each had a pair of scores with Neal leading the team with 82 yards on 28 carries.

Andre Cisco and Kielan Whitner each had an interception, Cisco’s coming in his first game at Syracuse.  Kendall Coleman had the lone sack of the night while Evan Foster topped the team with ten tackles, including a pair for loss.

The Orange have their home opener next Saturday when they welcome Wagner to the Carrier Dome.  The Seahawks, who play at the FCS level, won their opening game over Division II Bowie State on Thursday night, 40-23.  Ryan Fulse had 271 rushing yards and three rushing scores for Wagner.  Kickoff between the Orange and Seahawks is set for 3:30pm and the game will be available to watch online at ESPN3.com

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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 NBA.com. He currently resides in Syracuse.