SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Progress. This word can be the definitive adjective for a variety of aspects from Syracuse’s 30-17 victory over the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest at the Carrier Dome today.
First, the win brings the Orange to a record of 2-0, and also an early undefeated record of 1-0 in the ACC. They have accomplished two thirds of last year’s win total in just two games, and matched their lone ACC victory from last season; also against Wake Forest.
Second, Eric Dungey got more reps at the quarterback position, and the true freshman did not disappoint. He went 8 of 13 in the air for 221 yards and two touchdowns, which included an 89 yard strike to Brisly Estime. Dungey also was unafraid to tuck the ball and go, leading to 36 yards on 12 carries.
Third, the defense limited the scoring of Wake Forest with four sacks for a loss of 30 yards. Donnie Simmons and Luke Arciniega highlighted the defensive output with an interception for a touchdown and two sacks respectively.
Fourth, the Orange has returned interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive games for the first time since 1966.
These results have made it difficult to find a true MVP on the field, as all hands were on deck following the injuries suffered by Terrel Hunt and Ervin Philips in Week 1. The togetherness of this group is starting to build believers in Central New York, and they showered their fans in orange clad with some great moments on the field.
Donnie Simmons reveled in his first interception of his football career, but the focus again remained on the progress of the team.
“I have been putting a lot of work into this program, and finally it is paying off,” Simmons said. “But more importantly I am playing for my brothers, and that’s the key just playing for others and making sure we win.”
This type of attitude is what has spurred on the Orange as they continually shed last year’s misfortunes and turn the page. The goals are high, but trusting in one another is what has inspired the play on the field.
Wide receiver, Steve Ishmael echoed that same sentiment.
“My touchdown kind of open things up late, but we (offensive players) were looking forward to the defense because they had a great game,” Ishmael said. “God has really blessed our team with our attitude toward each other, we don’t fight, and we just pull together.”
This type of attitude and leadership is turning small goals such as a great day of practice or an early season win into the building blocks that are making the Orange show flashes of being dangerous. They never seem to lose sight of the task at hand, and grow with each play.
However, progress can also be identified in the weaknesses that the ‘Cuse must tighten up. The Orange were again plagued in the secondary giving up 373 passing yards to the elusive John Wolford, as he completed 30 passes on 45 attempts. They also allowed three receivers to gain over 75 yards, and another just shy of 50 yards.
This aspect of the defense has to be rectified. The defensive line and line backers held the Demon Deacons to 82 rushing yards, and no back gained more than 45 yards. Syracuse puts a lot of pressure on themselves when they bail out the opponent in third and long scenarios, by giving up the big pass play.
As practice continues this week leading into another testy matchup with Central Michigan (1-1, Mid-America Conference), the Orange need to address these specific defensive issues as they prepare for LSU and the rest of the ACC going forward. The Chippewas beat FCS Monmouth (Northeast Conference) 31-10, but narrowly lost to Oklahoma State of the Big 12 in Week 1 by a score of 24-13. Preparation and progress are continued themes in the days ahead for Syracuse.
But, today was a win and that was important. As head coach Scott Shafer said, “It was our number one priority to win this game for Coach Mac (legendary coach Dick MacPherson honored at today’s game) and give him the game ball.”
The Orange accomplished that goal, and now it's on to Central Michigan.