In Syracuse, you can always count on three things: unseasonable and unbearable snow, the Tres Niños order at Dinosaur BBQ, and Dino Babers bringing electricity to every press conference. Whether his team just toppled the reigning national champions or got spanked on a national stage, the Orange’s head football coach walks to the podium armed with charisma, candor, and humor (plus a bevy of pop-culture references). Babers’ final Monday presser of the 2018 regular season — fingers crossed he does one next week because of that whole bowl thing — was no different. Here’s some of the most interesting and entertaining stuff the head honcho said:
Boston College is, unequivocally, a rival
Add one more bullet to the list of things you can count on in Syracuse: intra-Orange Nation arguments about SU’s rivals. The most heated debate seems to revolve around Duke, but we can also haggle about the old Big East foes: most notably BC and Pittsburgh, with Louisville and Virginia Tech in the mix, as well. To Babers, there’s no argument about this week’s opponent.
“We’re looking very forward to playing our game against our rivals, Boston College, this Saturday,” Babers said. A few minutes later, he referred to the Eagles as a rival again.
Babers gave Pitt the same treatment after their overtime barnburner earlier this season. It’s good to see he’s not intimidated by the Rivalry Police, whose favorite activity is screaming indignantly about how Jim Boeheim and John Thompson basically brought knives to old Big East showdowns and nothing will ever come close.
Eric Dungey is healthy enough for the hot tub club
Syracuse’s senior quarterback — legitimately one of the best and most beloved players in program history — went down with a mystery “upper-body injury” midway through the first quarter and didn’t return Saturday. Dungey clutched his back on the way to the Yankee Stadium grass before exiting and, after the game, walked gingerly out of the locker room to a cart, which transported him to the team plane. He (understandably) didn’t address the media and Babers didn’t budge when reporters inevitably pestered him about Dungey’s health Monday.
OK, he budged a little.
“I can tell you that yesterday (Sunday), him, myself, and Tommy DeVito were in the hot tub talking about the game,” Babers revealed.
Stephen Bailey of the Post-Standard followed up and asked if Dungey entered the hot tub without assistance, which Babers affirmed.
This raises a flood of questions: is it an elevated hot tub, which would have required to climb stairs or lift himself in? Will the warm water help him heal in a sort of reverse-ice-bath method? Who decides how hot the water is? Is that the head coach’s call, even if he’s a players’ coach? How often do they hot tub together? Is there an opportunity for Hot Tub Time Machine 3: Whose Hot Tub?!
BC is tough, nasty, and no cupcake
“Fantastic, fantastic — OK? — football team,” Babers said, pausing for confirmation from nodding heads across the room. “They have not missed a beat from the last time they played us here at the Dome. One of the most physical teams in the conference — they kind of do it the old-fashioned way. I kind of admire that. It is 1950, 1960, 1970 football, and you really don’t have a chance to beat them unless you go back into their era and play the way they want to play.”
BC running back AJ Dillon was a fringe Heisman candidate throughout the first half of the season before he missed a couple games with an ankle injury. The sophomore is back and better than ever now — he was healthy enough to tote the rock a season-high 37 times for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Florida State last week. Dillon leads the ACC at nearly 117 rushing yards per game; the only other two ballcarriers in the league with more than 1,000 yards on the ground this season are Travis Etienne from Clemson and Qadree Ollison from Pittsburgh, both of whom torched the ‘Cuse and served as the main reason why their team won those games.
Dillon was the engine behind BC’s 42-14 win at the Dome in last year’s season finale: he shredded Syracuse to the tune of 23 carries for 196 yards and three scores.
The sharks and the jets, bro
“We’re not even thinking about a bowl game,” Babers said. “That’s how you get knocked out in a fight. This is all about Boston College and Syracuse University, and everything that gets tied into that. This is the big game. This is not a freebie. This is the game. It’s an ACC matchup between the No. 2 and No. 3 in the Atlantic.”
Yep, makes total sense.
“This is the sharks and the jets, bro. We’ve got to decide what side you’re on, and we’ve got to go. Be a jet.”
Aaaaaand you lost me. If anyone knows what Babers is referring to or can explain this in any way, please drop a line in the comments or on Twitter (@OrangeFizz and/or @Drewdle25).
UPDATE: Major shoutout to Tim Keough for explaining this in the comments (and an extra assist to our pilot on Flight Fizz, D.A.). The rival gangs in West Side Story are called the Sharks and the Jets. I wasn’t kidding when I wrote that Babers comes to every presser ready to rifle off pop culture references, even when they come from 1950s Broadway musicals.
This guy could sell a phonebook to a millennial
That’s not to say Babers is a salesman who persuades with fluff. He’s backed up his “belief without evidence” request this season, and if you listen to the man speak, it’s hard not to feel massively proud and enthusiastic to be an Orange fan.
“This is exciting times for Syracuse University,” Babers said. “There’s a light on the program. People are looking; people are watching. Obviously, some of the things that happened in the last football game… we were there, but that was a very, very solid team. And if we want to get some of that solidity, we’ve gotta get some more players here. And I think what we’re doing in 2018 and what we have a chance to do in 2019 could very easily give us the ammunition that we need to become the team that we want to become — that we need to become — in the conference that we’re in.”
Bring on the Eagles.