It’s not often that two quarterbacks from the Pacific Northwest come play on the Atlantic Coast, but that is the matchup we have this weekend. By now, Syracuse fans are familiar with Eric Dungey’s Oregon roots. He squares off against Pitt quarterback and Washington native Max Browne, who was once the football darling west of the Mississippi. The grad transfer had the picking of which football powerhouse he wanted to play for. Browne was the top quarterback in the Class of 2013. He was a part of a recruiting class that is stocked with current NFL players and ranked ahead of budding stars like Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry and Joey Bosa. But after a lackluster career that saw very little playing time at USC and eventually getting benched in favor of Heisman contender Sam Darnold, Browne is the latest grad transfer under center for Pat Narduzzi’s team.
Through the first four games of the season, it was the same old Browne. He never eclipsed 140 yards, threw two interceptions compared to just one touchdown and Pitt was reeling with a 1-3 record. But last week against Rice, Browne exploded. He threw more touchdowns in the Panthers 42-10 beatdown than he had thrown in his entire collegiate career. Browne nearly doubled his season total for yards after dropping 410 on the Owls and completing all but four passes. This was the Max Browne Trojans fans were expecting, but never received.
Dungey is coming off of a nearly as impressive performance as Browne. The junior rebounded from a first pass interception for the second consecutive week and tossed for 385 yards and a touchdown against the Wolfpack. He also ran in for two more scores. Dungey is playing his best football of his career at the moment, now he just needs it to translate to wins.
The optics show Dungey is a far better and more consistent passer than Browne. That should continue this week. Pitt ranks outside the top 100 (out of 129 teams) in passing defense. Meanwhile, Syracuse’s aerial prevention is much better than Rice, who ranks in the bottom 10. SU sits right in the middle of the pack at 62nd in the nation.
Browne may be the hot hand after last week and SU’s first half struggles may be all he needs to channel the confidence of the quarterback he was thought to be back in 2013, but the edge clearly goes to Dungey who clear-cut established himself as the ACC’s second best quarterback last week.