Not to bury the lede, but the Syracuse Orange are beating the 17th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies by a score of 17-3 at halfitme. Now that we have that out of the way, it could easily be 24-3. Or 27-3. Or really any score you can imagine. This was a puzzling first 30 minutes despite the positive results for SU.
The Orange got the scoring started with a 58-yard touchdown pass from Eric Dungey to Ervin Philips early in the first quarter. But then the defense buckled down a ton in its best showing thus far in 2016. Virginia Tech got two field goal tries off, converting one. But beyond that, Syracuse’s D has forced three-and-outs and actually executed the bend-but-don’t-break principles of this Tampa-2 scheme. Dontae Strickland threw the other touchdown pass, an 84-yarder to Brisly Estime.
Coming into the game, the Hokies were a top-five defense in the country, yet the Orange were able to amass 347 yards against them in the first half. SU managed 15 first downs and was 5-for-11 on third down conversions. Dungey is 17-for-32 for 216 yards and the aforementioned score. He also has 10 carries for 33 yards. It’s also worth noting that he left the game for two plays after getting his right knee rolled up on late in the second quarter. However, he returned to set up the 51-yard Cole Murphy field goal to push the lead to 14 before time expired.
Dungey’s numbers are on pace for another record day for SU, but we’ll see how the Orange QB will be affected by the aforementioned knee injury.
As mentioned, though, the first half wasn’t without its problems too. While the defense showed up, there will be questions cast toward Coach Dino Babers win or lose. With the ball at the goal line, the Orange called three straight passes before an ill-fated Dungey dive that prevented SU from going up 21-3. It was the strangest collection of goal line play calls since GERG faced off with Iowa. I never wanted to relive that again, yet here we are.
The Orange also rushed a missed Murphy field goal after Dungey’s injury. With a timeout remaining, they ran the field goal unit out late in the play clock and a rushed kick fell well short (or was blocked). SU also failed to rush the tempo in the early parts of the half’s final drive, then after a third down completion, turned on the jets. The limited time remaining only allowed for a field goal, but at least SU converted.
Virginia Tech gets the ball to start the third quarter. We’ll see if their defense can regroup or the offense can surpass its paltry 213 yards so far. Should be an entertaining half. Hang onto your butts... (and G’ORANGE!).