It was ugly. There is no better way to put it. There was not much good in the game, but the Syracuse Orange (5-2, 2-2) pulled off a 40-37 win in a double overtime thriller over the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-5, 1-3). There’s a lot to make of this contest, which now leaves SU one win shy of a bowl bid, but here are the three biggest notes:
Eric Dungey’s spotty play leaves his job up in the air
Eric Dungey had a few good moments in the ballgame. He had a huge 68-yard completion to Custis down the right sideline early in the 3rd quarter on a scoring drive where Dungey himself would carry it in from 16 yards out. However, his overall performance left a lot to be desired. He completed only 17 of his 33 passes and his 225 passing yards got a huge boost from that 68-yarder. Top the disappointing day on the stat sheet with a number of easy passes overthrown, undershot, or too far to the right or left, you have a day that every Orange fan can’t wait to forget.
Babers pulled Dungey in the 4th in favor of redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito, who led the Orange to victory after tying it up in regulation and winning it in double overtime. The sirens are blaring louder than ever of the possibility that, for the first time since taking over for Terrell Hunt his freshman year, the senior may lose his starting spot.
Syracuse’s run and pass defenses looked horrendous... for much of the game
In the two weeks heading into the bye week against Clemson and Pitt, Syracuse allowed a combined 558 yards on the ground. The run defense looked good to start, limiting the Tar Heels to 83 rushing yards through the first three quarters. But even that good news fell apart in the fourth quarter, with North Carolina’s Antonio Williams chugging out a 56-yard run to set up a UNC field goal. On the other side, the usually strong pass defense struggled mightily all game. Tar Heels quarterback Nathan Elliott threw for 272 yards in the first three quarters alone. It wasn’t even the deep ball. Just an absolute inability to cover screens and quick five to ten yard routes.
The issue seemed to be at the linebacker spot, which has been a soft spot all season — but especially lately. While the run defense improved for stretches, it was mostly at the risk of covering the pass in that middle of the field.
Mistake after mistake
It seemed like Syracuse couldn’t go a single drive without making some kind of mistake. A fumble, a missed tackle, a dropped pass; you name it, the Orange did it. In the fourth quarter, SU recovered a UNC fumble and got to start a drive from the Tar Heel 38. Only three plays later, Moe Neal had the ball jarred loose at the five and North Carolina recovered it in the end zone for a touchback. It was a chance for Syracuse to take a 27-20 lead, but they spoiled it and UNC ran away from there on out.
After a strong start in terms of turnovers and penalties this year, the mistakes have certainly ramped up for the Orange as the season’s worn on. Against a better opponent (and almost against this one), they could and have spelled defeat.