To say that Syracuse had a roller coaster of a season would be an understatement. Sure, there was not a step forward in the record department from last season, but the on-field product, when healthy, was far better than a 4-8 finish might indicate. Here were the best and worst of the 2017 Orange.
This isn’t just a top three moment of the 2017 season or the Dino Babers era, but this is a top three moment in Syracuse football history. This was the most complete game that the Orange played in a long time. Right from the get-go, SU scored on its opening possession and played consistently good from every drive after that. This was the win that put Syracuse on the map, and even had people picking the Orange the next week against another top-10 team in Miami. However, the momentum halted right there in the Carrier Dome. SU did not win a game for the remainder of the season.
This was a game that made people start to think a bowl was attainable. Sure it ended in a loss, but Syracuse showed it could hang with top-tier teams. You could argue that SU was the better team in this game. But at the end of the day, the Orange allowed a few too many big plays, as it was prone to doing all season long, to giveaway a potential big win.
This was the second best performance in the Dino Babers era. Yes, better than the Virginia Tech win. Central Michigan isn’t the same caliber of opponent as VT, but the performance the Orange put forth in this game was unbelievable. After allowing an early long touchdown, SU responded and Eric Dungey was phenomenal through the air and on the ground, and the defense picked up half of its four interceptions for the season en route to a 41-17 victory, its biggest win over an FBS team since 2014.
Scott Schafer’s Revenge
This game severely damaged the Orange’s bowl prospects early on in the season. When Middle Tennessee State pulled off the upset inside the Dome, the fanbase was down. It was a lackluster performance in all phases of the game. SU just did not not seem like itself. And of course, it was all topped off with a Shafer victory cigar.
2nd Half against Wake Forest
This game was 30 minutes away from making it into the three up category of this piece. SU was doing so well with Zack Mahoney starting in place of the injured Dungey. You would have thought 38 first half points from a backup quarterback would win you the game, but the defense imploded in the second half. The Orange was outscored 40-5 in the final two quarters which you could blame the defense for, but the offense also failed to show up. Mahoney was held to just 87 yards to go along with two picks. This would have set up a potential bowl opportunity for SU going into the final two weeks, but now, we no longer have to worry about those “what if” scenarios.
Every single road game began with an opening drive interception. That set the tone for the Orange away from the Carrier Dome. SU went 0-5 outside of Central New York. Syracuse came so close to pulling off a couple of unthinkable wins (comeback effort at NC State, unthinkable second half rebound performance against Miami, missed game-tying field goal against Florida State), but it could not get over the hump of its early game shortcomings to ultimately seal the game.
Dino Babers says 2018 is going to be a season that Syracuse fans will talk about for a long time. The recruits seem to be there. Now, we wait and see if it gets delivered on the field.