Orange Watch: Off to the races for Syracuse football growing Babers’ offensive arsenal

Jamal Custis
Jamal Custis hauls in a touchdown catch during the first half of Syracuse's win over Western Michigan. Mandatory Photo Credit: Raj Mehta/USA Today Sports.

Item: Piloted by the one player Orange football cannot afford to lose to injury again, the dynamic dual threat Eric Dungey, wasn’t it fun to watch the first 30 minutes and 34 points in the eventual 55-42 blitz of Western Michigan last Friday night to open the season in the right direction?

With Syracuse scoring on each of its first three possessions and 34 points at the half, including what looked like fine form from new redshirt freshman field goal and PAT specialist Andre Szmyt on his 26 and 43 yard field goals, there was little not to like with envisioning the master stroke of Dungey executing the always-in-motion offense.

Not only did the emotional Oregonian set yet another school offensive record in Babers short 25 game tenure with his 200 yards rushing by a quarterback, exhibiting both power and the agility of zig-zag moves, but he dropped in some perfect passes among his seven completions, and provided a preview of the type of season Jamal Custis will finally be able to contribute following his six catches, including a beautiful one-handed grab, and two touchdown receptions.

“As a fifth year senior I just try to be the leader of my group (the wide receivers),” the modest Custis said outside the victorious SU locker room. “I know when he (Dungey) throws me the ball, he expects me to catch it (smiling), and that’s all I’m concentrating on (finishing).”

Interestingly, even though he missed the implementation of the new four-game, redshirt season protection rule by one season, we figured freshman Tommy DeVito would see action in the opener and not wait for Saturday afternoon’s home opener against 1-0 FCS foe Wagner (3:30 p.m. ET / ACC Network Extra), simply to face an opposing defense in a live situation after sitting out all of his own redshirt season.

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Although DeVito was clearly struggling to get into a groove during the late stages of the first half and the majority of the third quarter versus WMU, it was important to begin to get him game ready with Dungey’s injury history.

“(I) wanted to get him (DeVito) into the game in the first half, get him ready,” Babers said of his top 2017 recruit during his postgame media availability. “That game was more under control in the first half than the second half was. I thought it was a good time to bring him in.”

Dungey made his Syracuse debut in 2015 replacing an injured Terrel Hunt (torn Achilles) in a 47-0 rout of Rhode Island, playing three quarters of the game. DeVito played over the final five minutes plus of the second quarter and 10 minutes of the third quarter against WMU. Here is a quick comparison of the college debuts of SU’s top two quarterbacks:

Dungey vs. Rhode Island 2015:

  • Passing: 10 of 17 for 114 yards, two touchdowns
  • Rushing: six carries for 20 yards, no touchdowns

DeVito vs. Western Michigan 2018:

  • Passing: four of nine for 42 yards, no touchdowns
  • Rushing: seven carries for 27 yards, no touchdowns

With the first game in the books, the Syracuse quarterback position is likely to remain in “2-D’ mode this season.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.