ORLANDO, Fla.– Eric Dungey stood up from his knee and handed the football to a referee. He turned to his right, arms wide, and accepted fellow senior Dontae Strickland. While the rest of their teammates went to the center of the field, dancing, the two stood directly where Dungey took the knee to seal the game.
For 3 years, the 2 enjoyed as their group rested in purgatory as one of the bottom-feeders of the Power 5. That knee implied more than simply a bowl-game success. It was the conclusion of a four-year struggle that finally saw the Orange go back to days of old, and they stood at its center, as catalysts, accelerating the process of going back to national relevance.
This Friday, No. 20 Syracuse (10-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast) bludgeoned No. 16 West Virginia (8-4, 6-3 Huge 12), 34-18, to win 10 video games for the very first time since 2001 and simply the seventh time in program history. This season showed to be unlike any in years past. Syracuse, coming off a four-year bowl dry spell, which was connected for the second-longest among all Power 5 programs, was selected to finish last in the ACC prior to putting forth the best season it has produced in nearly two years.
With sights set on just reaching a championship game, SU did much more, etching the 2018 season amongst the finest in Orange history. In a year when Syracuse frantically needed to prosper amid a lengthy spell of mediocrity, the Orange turned its doubters into believers regardless of its recent past, stemming from a pledge made almost 3 years earlier.
On Jan. 9, 2016, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers took center court during Syracuse basketball’s contest with North Carolina. All week heading up to that night, Babers struggled to figure out what he was going to say to the crowd of over 26,000 people. He talked with family and friends before, but didn’t believe them when they all informed him he would “do fine.”
“You don’t understand,” Babers consistently stated, “I do not understand what to say.”
When he took the microphone to begin his intro, he began by saying “we’re not gon na make guarantees,” but less than one minute later, he raised his voice as the Carrier Dome increased to its feet.
“We will win,” Babers yelled into the microphone, before exiting the court.
Following Syracuse’s 51-41 win against then-No. 22 North Carolina State in October to clinch a bowl berth for the first time given that 2013, Babers thought back about that introduction throughout the basketball game. About how he promised to not make pledges, just to make the biggest one of them all.
“As soon as it’s out there, you can’t take it back,” Babers stated.
Three West Virginia offensive players remained of the Camping World Bowl in order to get ready for the draft, consisting of quarterback Will Grier, a preseason Heisman prospect. No gamers on Syracuse remained to prepare for the draft. For a group that had not played previous November in five years, a win in Orlando suggested another opportunity to prove this season was different, that Syracuse has actually escaped the chasm it had actually been buried in at the bottom of the ACC.
Throughout the week heading into this match, Babers worried the significance of his group’s mental fortitude, that if the Orange came into this game concentrated on the task at hand, they ‘d have “an excellent chance.” Yet, when the matchup began, West Virginia appeared like the more composed, more focused group.
Throughout the first half, the groups traded the ball back-and-forth with neither able to take control of the game and hold firm. The only real intense area for Syracuse came in the type of Oklahoma transfer Abdul Adams, who scored 2 first-half touchdowns in his Orange launching. However Syracuse, at times, reverted back to old habits, struggling to fill gaps and giving up portion runs and missing easy tackles.
The Mountaineers, who won through the air all season, ran for 124 lawns and a touchdown in the very first half. They experimented with the wildcat, ran jet sweeps and just fooled SU protectors with different scheming. For Syracuse, Dungey, who rattled off six overall goals in his last game versus Boston College, threw 2 first half interceptions. He attempted to develop offense when there was no hope, resulting in deep sacks. And the offending line, one of the most experienced in the nation, allowed WVU’s defense line to penetrate the backfield with ease with five very first half sacks permitted.
SU’s struggles continued throughout the 3rd quarter, until the Orange finally broke complimentary in the 4th. Dungey assaulted more with his legs, moving outside the pocket, and forcing the defense to chase, opening the remainder of the field for his receivers. The offensive line held consistent, safeguarding its quarterback and offering the rest of the group time to create separation. And the defense, that made stops, but struggled to create plays in the first 3 quarters, clicked.
After Dungey found Trishton Jackson at the pylon for a goal to take the lead, 24-18, to start the fourth quarter, Allen Stritzinger selected off his very first pass of the season in West Virginia territory, resulting in another three points for the Orange.
As the clock diminished in the 4th, SU continued to raise its game while West Virginia crumbled. Dungey and the rest of the offense found their groove, capitalizing on West Virginia’s mistakes. In the middle of the 4th quarter, the Mountaineers blitzed, hurrying through the SU offending line. Dungey, turned over his right shoulder to evade a sack and tossed a soft, lofting ball to Moe Neal deep in the backfield. Behind three offending linemen, Neal crossed the entire field, breaking 3 takes on, and racing ahead for a 42-yard gain to establish another SU touchdown.
For 45 minutes, SU looked like the team that collapsed versus Pittsburgh, the one that nearly gave up a house loss to North Carolina. The team that could not break five wins for four-consecutive years.
But in the 4th quarter, Syracuse looked completely different. The Orange defense smothered the Mountaineers, just as they did against Florida State, and Dungey looked as smooth as he did during his dominant efficiency against NC State.
Just when it looked like Syracuse may dig itself into the crevice it struggled to get away for what seemed like an eternity, the Orange rose ahead, etching its spot in Syracuse tradition.
Babers constantly requested faith, belief without proof. Syracuse is devoted again, on the back of one of the very best seasons in team history.
Dungey and Strickland continued to stand in their area, embracing, understanding their faith led them to this minute.
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ORLANDO, Fla.– Eric Dungey stood up from his knee and handed the football to a referee. He turned to his right, arms large, and welcomed fellow senior Dontae Strickland. While the rest of their teammates went to the center of the field, dancing, the 2 stood straight where Dungey took the knee to seal the...