Syracuse turns to Tommy DeVito for big lift off bench against North Carolina

Syracuse Orange wide receiver Jamal Custis (17) celebrates a touchdown during the second quarter at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse would go on to win 40-37. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

About two weeks after “A Star Is Born” opened in theaters nationwide, a different show by the same name opened in an exclusive release at the Carrier Dome. Saturday afternoon, Tommy DeVito was summoned from the bench with Syracuse facing a seven-point deficit with just over five minutes left in regulation. The redshirt freshman lit up the Dome by firing three touchdown passes, including a pair of scores in overtime, as the Orange pulled out a 40-37 double overtime win over North Carolina.

The come from behind win righted the ship for SU, who now stands 5-2, including a 2-2 mark in conference play. The Tar Heels slid to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the ACC.

With the Orange facing a 27-20 deficit after watching a 13-point lead disappear, DeVito was summoned and did not disappoint. On his first snap in four weeks, DeVito aired out a deep ball for a 50-yard completion to Jamal Custis. While that drive ended on a failed fourth down, the Syracuse defense got the ball back on a three-and-out.

With 2:07 left on the clock, DeVito took over and proved that was far more time than he needed. On the third play of the drive, DeVito dropped a perfect deep ball to Nykeim Johnson in the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown strike. Andre Szmyt booted the extra point to knot the score at 27 a side.

SU actually had two more opportunities in regulation, but DeVito was intercepted on the first and, after the defense again got possession back, his hail mary was incomplete on the final play in regulation.

DeVito was still looking to make things happen in overtime and connected with Custis on the second play of extra time for a 25-yard score in the front right corner of the end zone. Szmyt’s extra point made it a seven-point lead, but North Carolina needed just four plays for a tying score, sending the game to a second overtime at 34-34.

The Tar Heels went three-and-out, the final play from scrimmage being a sack by Kendall Coleman. Freeman Jones, however, slipped a 48-yard field goal inside the uprights for a 37-34 lead.

DeVito answered with a play-action touchdown pass to Ravian Pierce. With the Orange facing second-and-goal at the four, the tight end was all alone in the end zone after the Heels bit on the fake handoff and gathered the ball in for the winning score.

Just over four hours previous, Carolina opened the game with a touchdown drive and SU responded with a 53-yard drive that ended in no points when Szmyt pushed his 44-yard field goal from the right hash too far to the left.

The score held at 7-0 into the second quarter. Following a Carolina missed field goal try, the Orange got one of their own. Szmyt was true from 25 yards out, slicing the guests’ lead to 7-3.

» Related: Syracuse football needs more from Eric Dungey in second half of season

The Orange were driven out of their doldrums in an unusual way. Sterling Hofrichter boomed a 58-yard punt, Shy Cullen made an excellent open field tackle on the return, and a penalty backed up the Heels to their 20. The defense then came to life, forcing a three-and-out, and UNC’s punter shanked his kick into the seats, gifting Syracuse the ball at the UNC 32.

Five plays later, Chris Elmore hammered the ball into the end zone from a yard out and Szmyt tacked on the extra point for a 10-7 lead with just under two minutes left in the half.

The SU defense got the ball back quickly once more and their offensive mates drove 58 yards in the final 95 seconds of the opening half before settling for a 46-yard field goal from Szmyt for a 13-7 halftime lead.

The Orange offense opened the second half with the ball and struck quickly. On the first snap, Eric Dungey connected with Custis for a 68-yard bomb down the right sideline. A couple plays later, Dungey was flushed from the pocket and beelined 16 yards for a touchdown. Szmyt’s conversion gave SU a 20-7 lead less than a minute into the third.

Carolina struck for the next two scores, including a 75-yard punt return that gave them a 21-20 lead with just over six minutes left in the third. The Heels tacked on a field goal at the end of their next possession, nudging their lead to 24-20 with six seconds left in the third, and added another less than five minutes later for a seven-point margin.

Two Syracuse possessions later, Dino Babers turned the offense over to DeVito and the comeback was on.

Tommy DeVito completed 11-of-19 passes for 181 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Before being lifted, Eric Dungey was 17-of-33 for 225 yards. Jamal Custis had seven receptions for 162 yards and a score. Sean Riley also had seven grabs while Nykeim Johnson picked up 102 yards and a score on his five catches.

Ryan Guthrie had a dozen stops to lead the Syracuse defense, including 1.5 tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery. Evan Foster had an interception and a tackle for loss while Andre Cisco had a forced fumble. Kendall Coleman logged the unit’s only sack on the day and Ifeatu Melifonwu was credited with four passes defensed.

The Orange return to the Carrier Dome next Saturday to face North Carolina State. The Wolfpack (5-1, 2-1) was dealt their first loss of the season on Saturday when they were manhandled at Clemson, 41-7. The contest marked the first time the ‘Pack gave up more than 23 points in a game on the season.

Ryan Finley, one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC, was stifled by the Tigers. After throwing for over 250 yards in every N.C. State game this season, Finley was limited to 156 yards and a pair of interceptions by Clemson.

Game time and television coverage are yet to be determined for the Syracuse-North Carolina State game.

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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.