A quick take on Syracuse’s exciting, bowl eligibility-clinching 51-41 victory over North Carolina State at the Dome Saturday evening:
WHAT HAPPENED: How about securing a spot in one of the 11 ACC-affiliated bowl games before Halloween evening? Syracuse (6-2, 3-2) is headed to the post season for the first time since 2013 and in Dino Babers third season of resurrecting the program. In a game featuring plenty of entertaining big offensive plays, 92 combined points, 1102 yards of combined offense by the two teams, and two SU quarterbacks, SU held off NCSU (5-2, 2-2) and quarterback Ryan Finley one last time. An interception by linebacker Andrew Armstrong on pressure by Alton Robinson with just over 3:00 to play, set up Dontae Strickland’s final SU touchdown and sent the delirious crowd home happy.
ANALYSIS: Babers went with his veteran “Warrior” Dungey as the starter, only inserting Tommy DeVito for one series late in the second quarter to try and pep up a temporary stagnant offense, Dungey stepped up his game on this night, finding eight different receivers in spreading out the ball, and rushed for another 59 yards and a score. The entire receiving corps, led by Sean Riley’s 10 grabs, had a marvelous game. Newcomers Nykeim Johnson (7 receptions) and Taj Harris (6) continue to evolve as threats for Dungey with the reliable Jamal Custis (3). All three scored against the ‘Pack.
HERO: There was not a quarterback controversy on this evening, even with DeVito’s first half cameo, Dungey was simply terrific when he needed to be. Not only did he lead scoring drives to begin each half on SU’s respective possessions, but he was in command of the offense throughout even with the one series benching, while throwing the long ball and running as needed. Kicker Andre Szmyt continued his clutch first campaign nailing his three field goals to go to 21 of 23 on FGs for the season, along with 40-40 on his PAT kicks.
ZERO: Crucial mistakes, with eight penalties coming at inopportune times, saved in the end by Armstrong’s interception to set up the final Strickland touchdown with 1:05 to play. A tough night for both pass defenses as Dungey and his equally excellent counterpart Finley (26-of-44 for 473 yards and three touchdowns) were flinging the ball into the Dome sky. There were five second half scoring drives of 75 yards, great for spectators and viewers but not defensive coordinators. Wolfpack receiver Kelvin Harmon (11 catches for 247 yards and two touchdowns) was a pest the entire evening for the ‘Cuse secondary.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse begins November on the road with a meeting against Wake Forest at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C. next Saturday, Nov. 3. Since entering the ACC in 2013, SU is 3-2 against Wake, but the Demon Deacons have won two in a row in the series. On the road Saturday afternoon, Wake Forest (4-4, 1-3) blew out Louisville 56-35 rolling up a season high 591 yards of offense. Game Time: 12:00 p.m. ET / TV-Radio: ACCRSN-Sirius XM.