It was a barnburner in the Carrier Dome on Saturday night, but the Syracuse Orange came out on top in the end by a score of 51-41 and became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2013. A lot happened to produce that final result, but here are the three biggest takeaways from the big upset over the No. 22 N.C. State Wolfpack:
Dungey is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get
Eric Dungey was an offensive firecracker out the gate. The senior completed 8 of 12 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns through the first quarter of action. But in the second quarter, his offense stalled. The team didn’t score for almost the entire quarter, with progress slowing to a point where Tommy DeVito entered the game for a drive. Dungey only threw for 27 yards while picking up fewer than 20 on the ground as well.
Things erupted once again in the second half, though. The senior would end up with a career day, finishing 27 of 38 passing for 411 yards and three touchdowns through the air (plus another on the ground). Dungey showed up when he needed to, and proved after last week’s late-game pull that he is more than worthy of keeping his starting job.
Defense showed up when it counted
Yes, NC State is a pass first team. And yes, go-to running back Reggie Gallaspy Jr. missed a chunk in the middle of the game.
However, the fact that the struggling Syracuse run defense held the Wolfpack run game to 68 yards on the ground is an impressive feat in and of itself. The pass game showed vulnerability in allowing 473 yards through the air, but it happened against a projected first round draft pick in Wolfpack QB Ryan Finley. SU’s pass defense still came in clutch in the important moments and it greatly contributed to the Orange win, holding back Finley and the Pack when they were needed most.
NC State was able to combat Syracuse’s constant pressure for much of the game by making sure Finley had a quick release — exposing the secondary a bit more than normal. Pressure came through in the clutch though, and the secondary was able to respond. There are plenty of things to improve, but considering the NFL talent opposite SU on Saturday, the known injuries in the secondary and the torrid pace of play, they actually held their own for stretches.
Syracuse can finish games
The biggest thing that held back Syracuse from winning big games last season (and a couple games earlier this season) was their inability to finish out ballgames in the fourth quarter. Syracuse entered the fourth with a lead, but had the lead cut down to three, at 44-41, very late. Andrew Armstrong embodied the late game spirit, intercepting Finley to set up the SU offense with 2:18 to go. The Orange found the end zone a minute later on a five-yard rush by Dontae Strickland to lock up the win. NCSU’s desperate late push down the field was met with great coverage, shutting down any big-play capabilities.
The Orange couldn’t find the necessary push last season against Florida State or Miami, nor could they do it this season in Death Valley against Clemson or in Pittsburgh this year either. But after last week’s double-overtime win over UNC and Saturday’s takedown of NC State, SU has proven the team can play under pressure.