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Second half thread: Syracuse 27, NC State 20

A thunderous first quarter gives way to a questionable second, but the Orange still lead.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange lead the N.C. State Wolfpack, 27-20 at halftime after an effort that was equal parts thrilling and confusing.

With Eric Dungey under center, SU scored 24 points in the first quarter while accumulating 277 yards of offense. However, the second quarter was a different story on both sides of the ball. Syracuse’s offense stalled out a bit while the defense started getting picked apart by Wolfpack QB Ryan Finley. But after State cut the lead to 24-20 with a field goal, SU was able to close the half with a booming Andre Szmyt kick to go back up a touchdown.

The last few weeks of Syracuse football have been filled with offensive question marks, but for a quarter, they were all gone. Dungey led drives of 55, 88, 60 and 68 yards in the first, and Syracuse was moving the ball at will through the air. His top highlight was an 82-yard score to Nykeim Johnson, though that’s not to minimize the 20-yarder to Jamal Custis in the back of the end zone either. He’d finish the half 12-of-20 for 231 yards and two touchdowns through the air — though most of that was from the early stages of the game.

Trailing 24-7 in the second quarter, State started finding holes in the secondary as Finley countered a strong Orange blitz with FInley’s quick release. The typically accurate senior passer hasn’t been as reliable today (he’s 11-of-25), but his second quarter more than made up for first quarter struggles. Plus, he has 259 yards and two scores at this point.

And while Finley certainly deserves much of the credit for turning things around for the Pack, the moment that shifted momentum came from an uncharacteristic special teams gaffe from Syracuse. Up 24-10, the Orange had forced a punt from deep in State’s own zone. However, Sean Riley was called for roughing when SU brought pressure, and Finley connected on a 74-yard TD pass the next play.

With the offense struggling late in the second quarter (they’d end up with just 71 yards), Dino Babers called for a switch to Tommy DeVito under center. While he had some success — 2-for-3 for 21 yards — he was also under duress and was called for intentional grounding. Dungey returned with a little over 30 seconds left to move SU 43 yards downfield for the Szmyt field goal.

One might assume that Dungey remains at quarterback in the second half following his fairly strong effort. Both he and DeVito were able to spread the ball around to various Orange receivers in the game. Custis, Riley and Johnson all have three or more catches on the day, while Taj Harris (two), Moe Neal, Dontae Strickland and Devin Butler have all caught passes as well. Riley’s biggest grab actually came courtesy of a 48-yard Strickland throw.

A major focus when SU retakes the field could be the run game, which was almost non-existent beyond Dungey in the first 30 minutes. The QB had 43 yards on the ground, while Strickland, Neal and Jarveon Howard (one TD) combined for 26 yards on five carries.

Defensively, Ryan Guthrie’s starred again with six tackles so far. We’ll see if he and the front-seven ramp up the pressure to help out the struggling secondary.

See you all after the game!