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Syracuse football: We’re all QB1 at some point, until we’re not anymore

Did we just witness the end of the Eric Dungey era? It sure feels like it, for better or worse.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Everything and everyone is replaceable. It’s a fact of life, as most of us are keenly aware, but the truism came and smacked everyone directly in the face on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome.

With Eric Dungey struggling and the Syracuse Orange down 27-20 to a lesser North Carolina Tar Heels squad, Dino Babers finally made the call we all knew could happen at some point or another: Tommy DeVito took over as SU’s quarterback.

Had he lost, it would’ve probably opened up a spirited conversation about which passer made more sense and which could potentially do a better job leading us to needed victories as the season drew to a close.

But instead, he led a comeback to force overtime AND won the game 40-37 while throwing three touchdown passes. Couple that with the win he shepherded along against Florida State earlier this year and the redshirt freshman DeVito may have very well just cemented himself as the Orange’s new starting quarterback.

Florida State v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Maybe it’s not as tragic a fall for Dungey as our worst nightmares may have imagined based on his injury history. Still, this feels like a critical moment for everyone involved — Dungey, DeVito and Babers. With his team’s season on the line, Dino just couldn’t stay with his dynamic senior anymore. And the gutsy move paid off. It also potentially marks the start of a much more coherent offensive attack for Syracuse with the third-year coach at the helm.

Because what we’d seen from Babers and Dungey (and offensive coordinator Mike Lynch) these past few weeks look nothing like what was advertised. The play-calling was stale. the execution was inconsistent. The offense wasn’t even “fast” to fit its hashtag-reinforced mantra (#OITNF). SU’s defense was far from stellar on the other end. But the offense and its inability to move down the field efficiently, was the biggest culprit behind the team’s struggles since the fourth quarter of the Clemson game.

We may never know if Dungey’s been hurt or not these past few weeks, though it would surprise me to learn he was healthy. Dino knows the answer, I’m sure, and even then he still believed in his quarterback long enough to potentially lead to a third straight loss.

Thankfully, he didn’t. Because just as Dungey knew he could always be replaced as QB1, Dino understood the repercussions for himself too. No, a loss wasn’t costing him his job at Syracuse, nor was a losing season this year. That said, it would certainly turn up the pressure from around the fan base that it was time to make good on all of that promise his program has hinted at since the start of 2016.

After the game, Dino wasn’t about to commit to anything yet, though it doesn’t take any sort of predictive abilities to figure out where things go from here. He inherited Dungey; and the highs and the lows that come with that. For DeVito, he gets the highs and lows, but it’s also “his” guy that earns them and ultimately dictates his coaching future (here or elsewhere).

For Dungey, we won’t write the postscript on his thrilling and death-defying Syracuse career just yet. But this does feel like some sort of end as the program he’s led since week one of 2015 is finally on the doorstep of a bowl game (and with him healthy, to boot). Barring injury to DeVito, it seems unlikely we see a whole lot of Dungey going forward. QB1 — the human highlight reel and grape soda aficionado — isn’t the wheelchair-bound Jason Street. More accurately, he’s Matt Saracen, the guy who showed up to win after an injury as a relative unknown and went on to become the heart of the team. DeVito might just be a less cocky J.D. McCoy. We’ll see who gets the ball in whatever the equivalent of our “state championship” is.

This should be an interesting last five games for Syracuse for a slew of reasons (most notably, the drive for a bowl game). The reason it’ll be shaped by most of all, though, is the likely change at quarterback.

Moving on from Dungey to DeVito doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten what Eric did or does. And it doesn’t mean DeVito will suddenly be perfect. It just means everyone’s replaceable, no matter how good they may be or have been. That’s easier to digest when you’re a fully-grown adult with a college degree and a bank account, but it still stings for a bit. For Dungey, this next step may sting, and we should respect that. Dino certainly does, and I know I do, too.

Now let’s see where the new QB1 can lead us, even if that eventually means giving way to the next QB1 after him.