From 1992 through 2017, no Syracuse Orange football team had won its first four football games of the season.
But in a commanding 51-21 victory over the former Big East rival Connecticut Huskies (1-3, 0-1), Syracuse (4-0, 1-0) did what no other Orange team has been able to do since 1991: start the season with four wins and no losses. From the very start, Syracuse was clearly the superior team, reaching the end zone on its first three drives and scoring on its first four.
Yet, on the day that Syracuse legend Joe Morris had his jersey retired, it wasn’t who SU played that mattered, it was how the Orange played. ‘Cuse was decisive and dominant every yard of the game, outgaining the Huskies 636 to 395. This win puts Syracuse right where it needs to be. As Dino Babers stated in the post-game press conference, “It gets us to our goal, which is 4-0 with an opportunity to play, and maybe win one more.”
“You can’t overlook any opponent,” senior quarterback Eric Dungey said after after the win. “That’s what coach was harping to tell us all week and that’s what I was trying to tell the guys as well. I think Virginia Tech got beaten by Old Dominion today. You can’t take any team for granted. That’s why you have to go into every week thinking ‘this is the only game we’re playing. This is the only thing we’re focusing on.”
On the very first possession, UConn appeared as if it was going to stick around. Senior quarterback David Pindell had 47 yards passing on his first three throws. That is until he coughed up the ball after being hit by senior Antwan Cordy. Sophomore Josh Black jumped onto the ball and ended any hope of a UConn opening drive score.
Then 10 plays and 67 yards later, Dungey punched his way into the end zone.
Two drives later, the Orange struck again, moving 75 yards down the field in only a minute and a half, proving that Orange is indeed the new fast. Dungey once again pounded his way into the end zone, He scored his 23rd all-time, tying him with Jim Brown and moving him one behind Morris. Later in the second quarter, Dungey would tie Morris’s mark after he ran a sneak in from one yard out. He finished the game with 286 yards passing, two touchdowns to junior Sean Riley and freshman Gabe Horan, plus 77 yards on the ground.
“I thought Eric’s leadership was at the forefront today,” Babers said. “I really liked the way he handled the first quarter drives and the things we did the first two or three times we had the football. A lot of Eric Dungey’s personality is breathed into the rest of the football team.”
From that point forward, UConn really had no chance. Pindell’s breakthrough 75-yard score was surprising, but that and the next 84-yard drive were really the only scrapes of offense the Huskies could find, as it only could muster one more score for the remainder of the game.
In the end, this game is more than just another tally in the win column . These are the types of games that Syracuse has dropped in the past. SU lost to below average teams like Middle Tennessee last year, and Wake Forest the year before in embarrassing fashion.
Yet, this Syracuse team seems different. From the first drive, the Orange appeared locked in and focused on avoiding a “let-down game.”
“You had an opportunity for a letdown,” Babers said. “We’ve not handled these situations well in the past. … [We] really put it on the leadership. We’ve got junior leaders and we’ve got some sophomores that are leaders too.”
“We have a lot of leadership and the guys feel confident,” Riley said. “We just believe we can win every game.”