The Syracuse Orange are your 2018 Camping World Bowl champions!
Despite a sloppy game all around, SU still turned it on the second half and defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers by a score of 34-18. It means 10 wins on the season — a feat the Orange hadn’t accomplished since 2001. Speaking of things not happening since 2001, it also means Syracuse will find itself in the top 25 to close out the season as well.
The Orange led 14-12 at halftime after two rushing touchdowns by Oklahoma transfer Abdul Adams, and found themselves down 18-17 after three. But Eric Dungey looked sharp throwing the football in the fourth quarter, and paired with a timely interception from Allen Stritzinger, it was enough to help SU pull away when it counted.
In his final collegiate game, Dungey finished 21-of-30 passing for 303 yards, one score and two interceptions, plus another 20 yards on the ground. 177 of those yards were in the second half, when he began utilizing a wider array of receivers and finding holes in the defense as WVU continued its relentless pressure. He was just six yards shy of Donovan McNabb’s SU bowl game record.
The two intended highlight throws were a first quarter 44-yarder to Jamal Custis and a great Trishton Jackson touchdown grab. However, the play we’ll all remember most is probably the errant, back-peddling pass-turned-42-yard-reception for Moe Neal.
Custis led the Orange with five catches for 80, and Taj Harris had four for 55 yards (all in the first half). Jackson, the Michigan State transfer who just gained eligibility like Adams, had three catches for 27 yards plus the aforementioned score and Hackett had three grabs for 42. Nykeim Johnson had two catches for 10 yards, while Neal, Sean Riley and Sharod Johnson all had one reception each for double-digit yardage. Chris Elmore also caught a six-yard pass.
The run game, improved all year, wasn’t overly effective as it gained just 114 yards on 40 carries. Neal led with 42 yards, followed by Dontae Strickland (28 yards), Dungey (22), Adams (19) and Jarveon Howard (four yards and a score).
Defensively, Andre Cisco and Evan Foster led the team in tackles, with seven apiece. Kendall Coleman had three of the Orange’s five sacks, with Ryan Guthrie and Tyrell Richards picking up the other two. Guthrie also added another tackle for loss, as did Chris Slayton, Shyheim Cullen, Christopher Fredrick and Kenneth Ruff.
We mentioned the penalties before, and there certainly were a lot of them: 11 for 90 yards on Syracuse alone. But other than that, this game seemed to resemble some of the Orange’s stronger second half wins.
SU traded blows with West Virginia early, up 7-3 and then 14-12 at half. The 18-17 deficit was short-lived, before Jackson caught the touchdown early in the fourth to make it 24-18. Then the Stritzinger tipped-ball interception set up Andre Szmyt’s second field goal of the day to stretch the lead to nine points. Another Orange touchdown just three minutes later effectively put the game out of reach.
WVU drove deep into SU territory as the fourth wore on, but the defense once again made a key stop to force a turnover on downs (there were two on the night). SU ran out much of the clock from there, methodically rushing downfield. They punted back to the Mountaineers late, but nothing came of it.
Damn, that was stressful but a hell o f a lot of fun: Something we can say about the majority of this season as well. Dino Babers led this team to a 10-win season, which seemed utterly implausible for this program just a few short months ago. Great to see these seniors get something like this too after three (and for some, four) years of struggling.
Congrats, Orange fans. More recap stuff coming. This was awesome.