As the clock was winding down in the game against North Carolina, Syracuse was facing a seven-point deficit and its third straight loss. After jumping out to a 20-7 lead on the opening drive of the second half, the Orange sputtered to just 54 total yards under quarterback Eric Dungey.
With Dungey struggling, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers turned to redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito, who led the Orange to a 40-37 double-overtime win. DeVito finished 11 for 19 for 181 yards and three touchdowns.
“I just felt that it might be a spark,” Babers said. “I didn’t know if he was going to do good. I didn’t know if he was going to do bad.”
The energy in the Carrier Dome changed once DeVito took the field.
On DeVito’s first play, he dropped a deep pass directly into receiver Jamal Custis’ hands for a 50-yard play. Though the drive eventually stalled out, SU’s offense had found its way.
“I just felt this sense of momentum,” Custis said. “It just felt like we had a chance after that play.”
UNC then went three and out to give Syracuse one more chance to tie the game with 2:07 left.
DeVito would only need 13 seconds.
On the third play of the drive, DeVito found receiver Nykiem Johnson on a beautiful deep ball for a 41-yard score. Syracuse players swarmed around Johnson in celebration, among them Dungey.
“It was a great feeling to know [Dungey] has my back no matter what,” DeVito said. “Because he knows I always have his.”
After tying the game, Syracuse forced another three and out from UNC and got the ball back with 1:07 left.
After converting a first down with a 13-yard completion to Taj Harris, DeVito threw an interception and UNC had the ball at Syracuse’s 39-yard line with 0:57 left to play. The Orange defense didn’t allow UNC to gain any yards and forced overtime.
The Orange started with the ball in overtime and came out firing. DeVito threw a jump ball in the end zone for Custis, who came down with it to put Syracuse up 34-27.
After UNC forced double overtime, it settled for a field goal for a 37-34 lead.
After picking up a key first down, Syracuse had a first and goal at the 6-yard line. On second down, DeVito floated a pass to a wide open Ravian Pierce in the end zone for the game winning touchdown.
“Playing with this guy every day in practice and watching him work hard during the summer,” Custis said, “we knew he could perform when his time was called.”
And what’s exactly what DeVito did.
Said Babers: “I didn’t expect the moment to be too big for him.”