Breaking down the best and the worst from Syracuse's 31-17 win over Virginia Tech.
How many times did momentum seem to shift away from Syracuse only to have them respond? Whether it was Virginia Tech getting on the board with a field goal, which the Orange answered with a long touchdown. Or the interception of Dungey that was followed up by Rodney Williams picking off Jerod Evans in the end zone. Or Virginia Tech tying the game in the fourth quarter answered by a long 17 play drive that put SU back in front. It was an impressive display of resolve, leadership and poise.
Eric Dungey was at his best on Saturday. Yes he has had more efficient passing games. But considering the circumstances, the team he was playing and that he fought through an injury, Dungey proved he is the leader of this team. He scrambled, extended plays, ran for over 100 yards and made plays at critical times. Dungey was especially good on third and fourth down.
Dontae Strickland had himself a day. He averaged over four yards per carry for nearly 70 yards, ran for a touchdown and threw for one as well. His 84-yard strike to Brisly Estime was a thing of beauty.
Speaking of Estime, he was fantastic on Saturday. Maybe his best game in a Syracuse uniform. He had eight catches for well over 100 yards and the touchdown from Strickland. He also had a key punt return in the fourth quarter that gave SU great field position to start the drive that would clinch the win.
The Syracuse offensive line had its moments where it struggled, but for the most part, they were quite good against a talented defensive line from Virginia Tech. They gave Dungey time when needed and opened holes when they did decide to run the ball.
Ervin Philips had a stellar game. He led Syracuse in receptions and yards with 11 for 139 and a touchdown. He made critical catch after critical catch on third and fourth downs. He set the tone for the game with his 58-yard score on Syracuse's first possession.
Steve Ishmael continues to expand his role. He finished with six catches for 81 yards. It was the third straight game where he had at least five grabs.
The Orange defense was spectacular, holding Virginia Tech to just 17 points. The defensive line specifically controlled the line of scrimmage all game. The Hokies found running room very hard to come by and quarterback Jerod Evans was pressured, hurried and harassed all game long.
This was the best game of the season for the Syracuse secondary. Yes they gave up some plays, they were in better position throughout than at any other point this year. Rodney Williams' interception in the second half was just Evans' second of the season.
The Syracuse special teams were quite good as well. The kick and punt return units were fantastic, Estime had a critical punt return and they even blocked an extra point that was nearly returned for two points the other way.
Trickeration: Syracuse had three different players complete a pass in this one. Dungey, obviously, was one of them. Strickland the second with his touchdown pass to Estime. But Erv Philips also connected on a pass. He hit Ishmael for 10 yards.
Syracuse won the time of possession battle 33:25 to 26:35. They controlled the ball for over 11 minutes of the fourth quarter.
The crowd was great. Despite only have 33,000 and change in the stands, they were loud and into it throughout. The Carrier Dome was rocking.
Syracuse, once again, struggled out of the locker room in the second half. That allowed Virginia Tech to tie a game that Syracuse had controlled from the onset. That is a bit concerning going forward.
Syracuse still gave up a couple too many big plays defensively.
Cole Murphy was just 1-3 on field goals. The one he made, he drilled from 51-yards out on a kick that had at least another 10 yards of distance. But he badly missed the other two. He has to be more consistent.
Dungey's interception in the third quarter was a poor read. He tried to hit Philips on a post, but threw into double or triple coverage. He clearly did not see the safety playing the deep middle, and it was picked off. It might have been the only mistake he made all game.
With Syracuse up 14-3, they had a first and goal at the one. They ran three straight pass plays, then a run on fourth and one. None of them resulted in a touchdown and SU turned the ball over. It was not a banner series for the offense or the play calling, but they more than made up for it during other portions of the game.