It wasn’t always pretty, but the Syracuse University football team improved to 2-0 with a 30-17 win over Wake Forest on Saturday. The Orange looked sluggish through much of the first half, as the offense struggled to produce and the defense, particularly the secondary, gave up big plays. But two big time throws from Eric Dungey to Brisly Estime and Steve Ishmael, respectively, changed the game.
Wake Forest actually dominated possession for much of the game as the Orange struggled to move the ball on offense, at one point owning a 65-to-29 edge in offensive plays run. That’s a pretty staggering statistic, but keep in mind that was around the same time Syracuse took the lead for good when Dungey scrambled and found Estime for an 89-yard touchdown, the third longest scoring strike in Syracuse history. That put the Orange up 20-17 late in the third quarter and they never looked back.
Dungey added a 53-yard touchdown strike to Ishmael in the fourth to put the game away, and the defense started stepping up as the momentum shifted firmly behind the Orange. This was an interesting game to watch, and one that seems like it’d be easy to nitpick. After all, this was not the best we could, or probably will, see from this Syracuse squad. That’s also to be expected, considering how many young, inexperienced players are performing key roles for the team.
Dungey finished the game completing 8-of-13 passes for 221 yards with two touchdowns and, maybe just as importantly, zero turnovers. That makes two straight appearances for Dungey without giving it away, and this week it was against a solid Wake defense. It was curious to see the way the running backs were used, with Jordan Fredericks barely playing in the first half after rushing for more than 100 yards in his debut against URI, for example.
But you know what? I’m not going to nitpick, because there’s a larger picture here. Syracuse played without its usual starting quarterback in Terrel Hunt, and without arguably its most dynamic offensive playmaker in Erv Philips. Dungey continued to be baptized by fire, and looked pretty solid in the process. His touchdown throw to Ishmael was an absolute rope, and his completion to Estime was a great job of keeping the play alive with his feet.
The bottom line, and the only thing that should matter in the headlines, is that Syracuse is 2-0 overall and 1-0 in ACC play as they prepare to host a seemingly solid Central Michigan team next week. The best case (realistic) scenario was to get through non-conference play with a record of 3-1, and the Orange are winning the games they should despite some early season setbacks no one could have foreseen.
That’s good enough for me, especially when you consider this is the type of team that’s built to be better in November than they are right now as the young, inexperienced players get better acclimated to the college game and their roles in the program.