The No. 12 Syracuse Orange (8-3, 5-2) might have been playing at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx Saturday afternoon, but No. 3 Notre Dame took the Orange to the woodshed. The Fighting Irish (11-0) came out hot early and eventually ran over, around and through Syracuse, 36-3. An Andre Szmyt field goal with seconds to play was the only salvation found for Dino Babers and company.
On top of the ugly-looking loss, quarterback Eric Dungey suffered an “upper-body injury” with 5:44 left in the first. Dungey, who was just one for four passing with a pick before leaving, did not return. Redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito didn’t have nearly the kind of success he had in spot play this season.
Syracuse hits a bit of a ceiling
The numbers tell the story. Syracuse’s two quarterbacks went a combined 15 of 35 passing with three interceptions. Sure, one of DeVito’s picks was actually just bad luck, a ball that bounced off Taj Harris and into the hands of a Notre Dame defender. But even with that unfortunate play, Dungey and DeVito never had time to get comfortable in the pocket, and on the occasions they did, the Orange’s receivers seemed unable to get separation.
Syracuse was able to muster 119 yards rushing as a team, but it didn’t even reach the red zone until the fourth quarter. For one of the few times since Babers took over, the Orange offense looked inept and outmatched. That’s likely a result of playing up against Notre Dame.
Furthermore, the Irish racked up 463 yards of total offense and controlled the game from the first quarter straight through to the end. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book threw for 292 yards and a score, and always seemed to find the right receiver at the right time. The Syracuse scheme looked out of place or out of whack all game long, as defenders were seemingly in the wrong spots or possibly unprepared for a lot of the Irish’s play calls.
The Irish are No. 3 in the country, undefeated and playing for a spot in the College Football Playoffs for a reason. Brian Kelly’s team is one of the best and clearly had the talent and the game plan to take out Syracuse. That doesn’t mean SU is in trouble or that the season is a dud now. And it doesn’t take anything away from that heartbreaking loss at Clemson. But it was obvious, at least for this Saturday, that Syracuse just wasn’t quite ready for prime time against prime time competition.
Eric Dungey’s future is in question again
The senior quarterback left the field of play in the opening quarter and never returned. The play in which he got hurt looked rather innocuous, a run up the center that didn’t end with any major impact or strange bodily twists. But Dungey got up slowly and then collapsed to the ground in pain before the next snap of the ball. It appeared as though it might have been his back area, but that was not certain and was not confirmed by the school.
Dungey, as was the case with DeVito, albeit in much more limited time, was rattled by the ferocious Fighting Irish front four. The senior was one of four passing and also threw a horrible looking interception.
Whatever the issue, Dungey’s status will be a major question as the Orange looks to close out the regular season at Boston College next weekend. Will the senior be able to cap off the year and and his career on the field, or will he once again miss out on a late-November match-up?
This tweet from Brittany Ehrlich seems to point toward Dungey’s not being ready for next Saturday.
Eric Dungey was just carted out to the team bus. He could not walk on his own. @CitrusTVSports— Brittany Ehrlich (@BrittEhrlich) November 17, 2018
Will Syracuse shake off a tough, nationally-televised disaster in time?
The thing is, the Orange still has a lot left to play for this season. Next week’s game will likely feature another ranked opponent (not so much now with after Boston College lost at Florida State). Furthermore, it’s a chance for Syracuse to finish with nine overall wins and six in conference. On top of that, a victory over the Eagles on the road would also guarantee that the Orange finishes the season in the top-25.
Yes, beating Notre Dame was the Holy Grail, something that could make this season memorable for generations of Syracuse fans. And it is true that this spanking was viewed by a whole lot of people who might just look at the Orange a little differently now. But it was a non-conference game and should SU get the “W” next weekend and then ultimately win a bowl game, then most in the Orange faithful will likely forget about this speed bump.
Syracuse looked rattled and disheveled, and it has to contend with whatever Dungey’s situation turns out to be. It also has to put all of this in the rear-view mirror quickly. The old saying goes “winning is the best deodorant.” Beating BC will rid the Orange of this stink. Another loss will put something of a damper on this still very special season.
(Also, let us never talk about “Cuse in the City” ever again. Amen.)