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Syracuse, you’ll have to take whichever Eric Dungey you get

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Save yourself frustration later by accepting reality now.

NCAA Football: Central Connecticut State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Just before the season started, Syracuse Orange quarterback Eric Dungey said he was going to be smarter about running. In a great feature by the Daily Orange’s Sam Fortier, Dungey said that he’d also run less in 2017. At the time, coach Dino Babers expressed some doubts, but wanted to believe:

“I hope so. I hope I believe him… He needs to be a part of what we do.”

Those words likely echoed in the minds of a lot of Syracuse football fans at the start of yesterday’s game. Dungey started hot throwing the ball — was 13-of-13 at the onset -- but that was the all-conference caliber passer at work. That’s the Dungey you’ll take any time.

The “other” Dungey was quick to arrive, however. Still in the first quarter, he took off under pressure and weaved around the defense until getting hit in the open field. He took a heavy hit while throwing. And then, the play that had everyone’s hearts in their throats, albeit briefly...

NCAA Football: Central Connecticut State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After the game, Dungey said he initiated the flip to protect himself. Babers, echoing his skepticism from the article just a day or so earlier, did not appear to be excited about his quarterback’s nine rushing attempts for 51 yards.

“I hope it’s out of his system. He just needs to be smart, obviously he’s very difficult to change when it comes to this stuff but it makes his game. A lot of quarterbacks do that stuff and it affects their accuracy and their numbers and their percentages drop. He does that stuff and he throws for high percentages... He did some nice things, he ran out of bounds a couple of times. That’s a start. He only flipped once.”

One could assume he was being facetious in that final sentence. Dungey, for his part, does get that he needs to change, even if it’s proving difficult.

“I’m just trying to get as many yards as I can but be smart at the same time. It’s different taking a hit from a 290-pound D-end rather than a cornerback. You can’t play football and not get hit. Coach wants me to be smart but... I’m working on it.”

We could give him the benefit of the doubt. And maybe I, personally, should embrace the positive outlook on this latest Dungey effort for the game. He was 28-of-36 for 328 yards and three scores, grabbed two more rushing TDs untouched. But I just can’t get my thoughts from right after the flip out of my head.

We all remember the Central Michigan injury. And the Virginia hurdle. And the completely unnecessary Louisville hit. And the nicks suffered against UConn and Virginia Tech last year. And of course, the Clemson injury that ultimately knocked him out for the 2016 season. You know who (probably) remembers them even more? Eric Dungey.

And if the player that’s suffered the consequences of those risks and injuries isn’t changing, then maybe we should just change our expectations about him.

Babers knows just as well as we do that part of Dungey’s talent is his ability to take off. That shouldn’t be taken away, but it could be altered. In year three of his college career, however, it hasn’t changed much. So I’d gather it’s unlikely to.

And Dungey’s ability to create plays with his feet and take risks also enhances the Orange passing game a bit. It keeps a defender occupied with him, which can open up receiving options in various parts of the field, and create easier throws. That latter Dungey is the one we’re always excited about, but we have to accept the fact that he doesn’t exist without the former.

The risk-taking Dungey who runs is what makes the risk-taking Dungey who makes critical throws better. That may not be a settling reality for Babers or Syracuse fans, but as long as he’s our quarterback -- and hopefully that’s for the entirety of both this season and next -- it’s the reality we’ll have to accept.

From now on, we’ll take whichever Eric Dungey we get, and then accept the consequences later. As frustrating as it may seem, Syracuse’s present sort of depends on it.