When Terrel Hunt went down in the season opener, the concern about Eric Dungey taking over was not his raw talent. It was not his throwing ability. It was not even his decision making. Rather, could Dungey make plays in clutch situations when it mattered the most?
Something that generally comes with experience and that Hunt has shown in the past. Dungey, on Saturday, made some critical throws that led the Orange to victory.
“At halftime, I liked his demeanor,” head coach Scott Shafer said. “I liked his focus. I thought our offensive line did some good things in the third quarter to kind of cool things off for him.
“Then I saw Eric do some good things. That little sidearm sling down the middle to Brisly. That’s the guy that we recruited.”
Trailing 17-13 late in the third quarter, Dungey and the Syracuse offense took over at their own 11-yard line. Wake Forest had all of the momentum, and the offense had been struggling throughout.
Dungey took the snap and rolled to his right. Wake Forest sent an extra rusher, who came through the line untouched. Dungey stopped, cut back to his left to avoid the sack. He stepped up in the pocket just as another Wake defender came free.
Keeping his eyes downfield the entire time, Dungey spots Brisly Estime darting across the middle. He throws a 35-yard semi-sidearm dart. Estime catches it with the defender diving to try to deflect the pass. He races the rest of the way untouched into the end zone.
Syracuse takes the lead 20-17.
The game against Wake Forest was arguably the most important on Syracuse’s schedule. It was the epitome of a swing game. For Syracuse to accomplish their goals in 2015, they simply had to beat the Demon Deacons. Dungey’s touchdown pass to Estime may have been a season defining one.
“I saw him keep his vision with pressure in his face, which is really hard to coach,” Shafer said. “He does some things that are hard to coach.”
But he wasn’t done there.
After the Syracuse defense forced a punt, the offense had the ball and the lead. A chance to run some clock and seal the deal. But that would only happen if they could score for a second consecutive possession.
Facing a third and 10 at Syracuse’s own 29-yard line, Dungey rolled to his left. He found Kendall Moore down the sideline, floating the ball over the outstretched arm of a linebacker who had underneath coverage. The ball was perfectly placed and Syracuse got the first down.
Two plays later, Dungey had yet another big time throw. He found Steve Ishmael along the right sideline, placing the ball over the cornerback and under the safety. Ishmael ran past the safety and walked into the end zone for a 53-yard score.
“Ever since the first day he came, I knew that he was something special,” Ishmael said. “Just his character off the field. Humble guy. He throws the ball really good. I always told him, ‘just keep your head up and keep working. Even if you’re not starting, just keep on working. You never know what could happen.’
“He came in last game and played pretty good. He was confident, he wasn’t nervous. He came in and started yelling. I was kind of scared myself when he started yelling. He’s a great person and I love the kid. I’m just looking forward to continuing to roll with him and play with him.”
Dungey struggled in the first half. No question about it. But his ability to shake that off and make plays to lead Syracuse to victory is the big takeaway from this game.
“Proud of Eric’s efforts,” Shafer said. “He wasn’t feeling it in that first half. We brought him along and then we started to see some of those things that we recruited. That was kind of fun to watch right there.”