The Syracuse Orange (3-0, 1-0 in ACC) has a unique opportunity this weekend. With a win against the former Big East “rival” Connecticut Huskies (1-2, 0-1 in AAC), the Orange would enter a week four matchup against Clemson with an undefeated record and (longshot) possibly a top 25 ranking,
Ahead of the non-conference bout, here’s what head coach Dino Babers had to say during this week’s ACC Coaches Teleconference:
Tommy Devito is improving every time he steps on the field
Redshirt freshman Tommy Devito was engaged and effective this past weekend against Florida State. He entered the game in the second quarter for the injured senior quarterback Eric Dungey and was excellent while playing mistake-free football. He slung 16 passes for 11 completions, 144 yards, and a score. He also ran the ball seven times for eight yards and a momentous third quarter touchdown that pushed the lead to double digits. Babers was ecstatic with how DeVito played.
“He is very cerebral. He saw that certain guys were covered, he really didn’t have anything there, he threw the ball away, which is advanced beyond his years,” Babers said. “He also made the rookie mistake of throwing the ball away when he broke the pocket, not throwing, get it past the line of scrimmage, got a penalty called on us for the ball not passing the line of scrimmage... we’re happy we got him.”
There’s no word on whether Dungey will have his full vision back this weekend, but if he does not, Babers can rest easy knowing that Devito is more than capable of leading this offense. For the first time in years, SU finally has a backup quarterback capable of winning games.
Dave Pindell = Eric Dungey?
The UConn senior quarterback should be the most frightening part of the Huskies offense. In his first three games, Pindell’s shredded secondaries through the air and sprinted through the teeth of the front seven. Pindell has thrown for 645 yards, and six scores with three interceptions on almost 90 attempts. He also totaled 334 rushing yards on nearly 65 carries. His dual-threat ability will worry any defensive coordinator.
“I see a young football team with a quarterback that looks like a young Eric Dungey,” Babers said. “This guy can create plays with his leg, he can run past DBs once he gets in the secondary, he has the ability to throw the football, touch all parts of the football field. You put an explosive players like that, get into a spread offense, give him some grass to operate, you never know what the heck is going to happen. I believe he has two games where he rushed over a hundred yards. He’s the leading rusher on that team, which is similar to what’s going on here at Syracuse.”
That comparison makes sense, both teams have dual-threat quarterbacks who do most of the team’s work on the ground and through the air. Though it’s tough to be a “young Eric Dungey” as a senior... unless he’s likening the UConn offense to what SU’s looked like when Dungey first took the reins.
The secondary is special
Last week, freshman Andre Cisco and the secondary stifled the Florida State air attack. Seminole junior quarterback Deondre Francois struggled to find any of his receivers. He spent the entire game trying to fit difficult throws into tight windows, usually throwing the ball several feet over his receiver’s head. Babers doesn’t look at that as a critique on the former Heisman candidate. Instead it was praise for his own defensive backs.
“I’m seeing a well-coached unit,” Babers said. “I’m seeing guys that after the first game, they’re not letting balls get behind their head. I think back to a play in the Florida State game where they attempted a double pass, and our veteran corner actually bit on it where they were going to have an opportunity, our freshman free safety swooped across the middle of the field, got in front of the receiver, deterring the Florida State guy making an attempt on the football.”
This is the second straight game that this secondary was dominant. After struggles in the opener against Western Michigan, the defense allowed under 200 passing yards in back to back games. As well, they’ve tallied six interceptions in the first three games, after only four last year. Maybe it’s a bit of home cooking, but it’s encouraging to see the back end of a Syracuse defense thrive.