Missing the LSU game with an injury is the best thing that could have happened to Eric Dungey.
Okay, I'll walk that back a bit...
The best thing that could have happened would have been for him to not be injured and to lead the Syracuse Orange in victory over the mighty LSU Tigers. However, because he was out with
a concussion The Dreaded Upper Body Injury, SU had to attempt the Herculean task without him. Syracuse played well and even made a game out of it.
Even though he never threw a pass or even took the field that day, Eric Dungey succeeded.
More specifically, The Legend of Eric Dungey succeeded.
"If Dungey played, we would have won." I can't tell you how many times someone either said that to me or wrote it on Twitter, Facebook or the comments of a Syracuse sports site. And you know what, I can't tell you it's wrong. Maybe Dungey would have come out of the gates guns blazing and thrown for five touchdowns. Maybe instead of watching the SU offense stall out in the first half, we would have watched Dungey go toe-to-toe with Leonard Fournette on touchdowns. Maybe Eric Dungey would have led SU to it's biggest victory in quite possibly 30 years.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a Syracuse fan who doesn't think Dungey would have had an all-star day two weekends ago. Even if we'd lost, surely Dungey would have surpassed Zach Mahoney's numbers (154 yards, 3 TDs).
You'd also be hard-pressed to find a Syracuse fan who doesn't think Dungey is going to light up the South Florida Bulls this weekend. It's a foregone conclusion. He's going to pick up where left off and torch the Bulls for four touchdowns. From there, it's all just a question of how far Dungey can take us.
Bowl eligible? That's a given. Eight wins? Sure. Nine wins? Doable. Doable with Dungey.
Tim Lester is throwing fuel on the Dungey mythos fire as well, talking up the fact that this is really the first year that Eric has 100% focused on football in his life. A multi-sport athlete in high school, look at what the quarterback accomplished when he was just "dabbling" with the sport. Imagine what he can do when he's focused entirely on it?
It's all enough to make Syracuse Football fans believe in rarified things that we usually dare not speak of.
Now, this is the part where I'm supposed to take the wind out of your sails and tell you that Eric Dungey is, in fact, a mere mortal. He is not our savior, at least not yet. That he has played in three college football games, one against an absolutely dreadful Rhode Island team (0-5), one against an ACC bottom-feeding Wake Forest team (2-3) and a little bit of action against a run-of-the-mill MAC squad in Central Michigan (2-3). That he hasn't actually been tested by a quality opponent yet. That he didn't actually throw that many passes against Wake Forest (13 attempts) and half his touchdowns were his receivers making moves and had nothing to do with him.
I could tell you all of those things. You know all of those things already, though. Sometimes when you get wrapped up in The Legend of Eric Dungey you forget those details and just focus on his touchdowns, but eventually you're reminded.
But that's not the point. The point isn't to say that, in fact, Eric Dungey isn't good. Because that's not true. At all. He IS good. Really good. Syracuse fans should be very excited about him and his potential. The starting quarterback gig is his to lose from here on out and that's damn impressive for a true freshman about to play his fourth game with a depth chart and incoming recruiting class full to brim with eager quarterbacks.
But here's my warning, heed it if you please and ignore it if you want.
Sooner or later, Eric Dungey is going to have a terrible game. He's going to have one of those four-interception, can't-complete-anything, entirely-his-fault-we-lost games. I don't know if it's this weekend. My guess is that it's not coming for another couple weeks. But it's coming. I promise you this. I'm talking about a Ryan Nassib vs. Rutgers in 2011 game. I'm talking about an Eli Manning vs. Minnesota in 2005 game. Find me a great quarterback and you will find at least one or two of these games buried in their past.
Long-term, that kind of game will be good for Dungey. It'll put hair on his chest, so to speak. It'll make him better.
But it will tarnish the Eric Dungey Mythos. It will ruin the picture so many SU fans have in their head of our Great Leader & Savior.
Maybe that's a good thing. Actually, I know that's a good thing. Because the more we see Eric Dungey as a quarterback four-games into a grand experiment instead of our hero who is ready to lead us to the promised land right now, the more acceptance we'll have for mistakes and growing pains. The less likely we are to see people calling for Dungey to be replaced by Mahoney (which you know in your hearts will happen).
I want Syracuse Football to get back to being what it should be. Nationally-ranked. Routinely-competitive with anyone. Fighting for conference titles. Eric Dungey seems like the guy who can help lead us there. But I'm looking forward to watching Dungey progress in reality instead of canonizing him for what he could do. I'm not worried about where his statue is going to be built. I just want to see him play a competent game against South Florida. And we can take it from there.