The oven dinged and Dino Babers’ cake was finally ready on Saturday. SU shocked #17 Virginia Tech 31-17 inside the Carrier Dome, giving the team it’s first win against a top 25 team since it dropped ninth ranked Louisville inside the Loud House. Syracuse dominated in all three phases of the game and outdueled Virginia Tech in its areas of strength to pull out the first signature win in the Dino Babers era.
Offensively, the Orange thrived from the first drive until the last. SU only went three and out twice during the game, following an eight three play drive performance against Wake Forest. The Orange was able to keep drives going with excellent third down play. The Orange went 10-21 against a Hokie team that came into Saturday’s contest allowing third down conversions on just 19 percent of opponents attempts (second in the nation). In the 11 times that Syracuse failed to convert on 3rd down, the team went do-or-die on fourth and converted four of five times. The Hokies entered today having only allowed just one fourth down conversion in nine attempts.
Individually, there was a collective sigh of relief around Central New York when Eric Dungey returned to the field after being sidelined for a couple of plays with what looked like a gruesome knee injury. When the sophomore came back on the field, he did not skip a beat. Dungey aired it out for 311 yards and a score while also racking up a career-high 109 yards on the ground to go along with a rushing touchdown. The Orange also received contributions from Dontae Strickland in the passing game when the running back aired out an 84-yard bomb to Brisley Estime that erupted the Carrier Dome and seemingly swung the momentum into Syracuse’s hands. The 405 passing yards for the Orange is the most allowed by a stingy Hokies defense that came into this game allowing just 132 yards per game, placing them second in the country.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Syracuse wreaked havoc all afternoon in Virginia Tech’s backfield. The Orange dominated the early stages of the game by holding the Hokies (a team that averages nearly 200 yards per game on the ground) to 66 first half rushing yards. Orange lineman De’Jon Wilson thrived in an expanded role with the absence of Kendall Coleman in the first half. Wilson picked up the Orange’s lone sack and was taking good angles to set up tackles for losses for other teammates. Safety Rodney Williams also came up with a big interception in the end zone, something that Hokie quarterback Jerod Evans does not do often. Evans only threw one interception prior to Saturday’s game.
Finally, the Orange absolutely dominated the special teams phase. George Morris II had a phenomenal day covering kicks by making a number of big tackles or setting up tackles for his teammates. Coleman also got into the action with a blocked extra point that Syracuse nearly returned for two points.
This game was largely won by the Orange’s ability to execute for four full quarters. This may cause some Syracuse fans to overreact to this unexpected success, but if SU submits performances like this, the Orange can compete with anyone on the remainder of its schedule.