Tonight, Eric Dungey will play his last game in the Carrier Dome. After coming to Syracuse as a relatively unheralded recruit what still feels like only yesterday, the career of one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Orange history is rapidly approaching its end.
Dungey will leave Syracuse as one of a small number of ACC quarterbacks to have ever topped more than 10,000 career total yards — an impressive feat given his injury history. Yet it’s hard to peg exactly where Dungey fits in Syracuse lore. What will his legacy at Syracuse ultimately be?
From the start, Dungey was a dynamic playmaker; a daredevil who put his body on the line every time he took the field, which naturally led to some pretty scary injuries. And while he was always exciting to watch, it didn’t necessarily translate to wins… at least, not in those first three seasons — none of which Dungey finished due to injuries.
This season, the Orange have finally turned things around, soaring to No. 13 in the latest national rankings and eying a New Years bowl game. With NC State losing last night, the Orange have an even stronger case to play their final game of the season in early 2019. Of course, that depends on how things shake out down the stretch, beginning with Louisville tonight.
But Dungey has obviously been the heart of this turnaround, even if his numbers haven’t necessarily been what we might have hoped in this Dino Babers offense this year. Make no mistake, Dungey’s still putting up strong numbers. He’s thrown for more than 2,000 yards with 13 touchdowns against just four picks, while leading the Orange with 628 rushing yards and 10 more touchdowns. Kind of amazingly, that’s the best rushing season for a Syracuse player since Jerome Smith rushed for 914 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.
Yet it feels like those passing numbers should be even higher. Sure, Dungey has missed a little time either due to injury (Florida State) or being pulled due to his own on-field struggles (North Carolina), and while he could finish the season strong, it feels odd to consider that, in this pass-happy offense, there’s a solid chance Dungey never gets to 3,000 passing yards in a season. That felt like a virtual lock when Babers took over, and Eric almost certainly would have gotten there if not for missing the ends of each of the last couple seasons.
Still, it’s impossible to argue with what Dungey has meant to this team — and this program — over the course of his career. He’s been the heart and soul of this Orange program; the guy everyone rallies around. He’s proven to be an absolute warrior whose guts and savvy have earned the respect of every opposing coach the team faces.
At the end of the day, as we look back on his career, though… where exactly do we place Dungey in the annals of Syracuse football history? I’ve written before that I think he’s bumped Ryan Nassib off the SU QB Mt. Rushmore, and nothing this season has dissuaded me from that opinion.
I’m not sure Eric Dungey is a great quarterback. He’s absolutely a very, very good one… but the more I think about it, the more I think of Eric as a great football player… who just happens to play quarterback. Will he play at the next level? I’m honestly not sure. He’s got the size, certainly, and the athleticism. With work, he can fine-tune his mechanics, and learn to be less reckless against NFL talent.
Regardless, I’m going to look back extremely fondly on the Eric Dungey era. He’s been one of my favorite players to ever watch play football at Syracuse, and I get the sense he’ll be remembered similarly for his guts and determination on the football field as Gerry McNamara is for the same on the basketball court.
And hey — if you’re ultimate legacy is that you’re the Gerry McNamara of Syracuse football, that ain’t half bad.