At the midpoint of the 2018 season, the Syracuse football team seems to be at a crossroads.
In roaring to a 4-0 start, the team looked significantly improved to previous seasons, rolling to three non-conference wins and handling Florida State. In the two games since, the team lost fourth quarter leads on the road to Clemson and Pitt, in large part because they simply could not stop the run. A season that looked like it could be very special just a couple weeks ago is clouded by uncertainty.
The run defense, which has rightfully been the object of some fans’ ire, does need to be shored up. The bye on the schedule creates a two-week gap between games, providing the team an opportunity to rest, get healthy, and figure out how to repair its leaks.
But, there is one other thing the coaches should be asking for – more from Eric Dungey.
While he has certainly powered the team to its biggest wins (and had them in position for another couple near-wins) while in the program, Dungey’s career stats show that he is lot like most players. The Syracuse senior beats up on lower level foes and has a lot more difficulty against Power 5 teams.
Dungey has thrown 50 touchdown passes in 32 career games at SU, 25 against Power 5 opponents and the other 25 against others. Of note, though, is that Dungey has only a dozen games (376 pass attempts) against lower-level opponents and 20 against peer competition (704 pass attempts).
His interception mark is a lot less impressive when you dig beyond the surface. With 25 career picks, Dungey sports a career 2:1 TD:INT ratio. This campaign, nine of Dungey’s ten touchdown passes came against Western Michigan, Wagner, and Connecticut. Only one of his four picks did.
Of those 25 interceptions, 19 have come against Power 5 opponents. Dungey’s interception rate is 1.6% against lesser competition and 2.7% against Power 5 teams. While the worse of those marks is not egregious, with the number of passes the Orange coaching staff calls, that rate essentially ensures a turnover a game.
In three seasons under Dino Babers, Dungey has also become less and less efficient. His completion mark against Power 5 teams has dropped every season to its 2018 level of 54.3%. Yes, Dungey is missing the quality at wide receiver this season that he enjoyed in the past, but with the number of short slants, screens, and other quick passes in the offensive scheme, there is no reason for him to be so erratic.
It’s not limited to this season, either. In all three seasons with Babers at the helm, Dungey’s completion percentage has been at least seven percentage points better against non-Power 5 teams. The interception rate has also increased every season under Babers against Power 5 teams, while the touchdown rate has slid during the same time.
Dungey has certainly done a lot and given a lot to the Syracuse football program. But if he wants to go out with a special season, he must give more and improve his play in the final half of his senior season.