This was far from the game we thought we’d get.
The Syracuse Orange lead the North Carolina Tar Heels 13-7 at halftime, but that only tells a fraction of the story from what we’ve seen through 30 minutes. Though UNC came into the game as a run-centric team, they’ve been able to pass at will against the Orange (20-for-25 for 160 yards). Meanwhile, SU’s third down defense — among the best in the country — has allowed 5-of-12 tries and 2-of-3 fourth downs.
On the positive end, Syracuse’s run defense has picked up the slack for the pass defense’s struggles (which are due in part to some soft spots in the middle against the linebackers). Carolina’s run the ball 19 times for 22 yards; an impressive effort for the Orange following two straight weeks of getting shredded on the ground.
As a group, the defense seemed to rebound come the end of the second quarter, but it’s the offense that’s been incredibly puzzling once again. We’ve been talking about Eric Dungey potentially being “off” for a few weeks now, and that trend seemed to continue with missed short and long throws once again. That said, a strong close to the quarter gives him a 10-of-19 line for 119 yards.
Perhaps his best play of the day was on the ground, though. Faced with a third-and-long deep in their own territory, Syracuse needed a conversion to prevent a punt to the Heels with plenty of time and timeouts remaining. But Dungey picked up 11 for the first and that would set up Andre Szmyt’s 46-yard field goal later on as time expired.
Szmyt also had another field goal on the day (after missing his first attempt). SU’s only touchdown belongs to Chris Elmore, who punched it in from the one-yard line following a nice completion from Dungey to Jamal Custis that was originally called a score, then reversed.
Beyond Dungey, the Orange’s offensive production has been led by a varied group of contributors. Nykeim Johnson has two catches for 49 yards, and Sean Riley has four grabs for 44 (including a nice run after catch that helped set up the final scoring drive). Moe Neal has 50 yards on the ground on just six carries, and could’ve had more if not for one ACC referee slowing him down.
Defensively, linebackers have been busy as Ryan Guthrie leads the team in tackles with six, while Shyheim Cullen has five. Guthrie, Evan Foster and Chris Slayton all have tackles for loss as well.
Hopefully the stress subsides in the second half this afternoon. SU will get the ball with a chance to extend the lead. See you all after the final whistle.