For four years, Eric Dungey has gone hard on every play, and it‚Äôs safe to say his efforts have produced results.
He‚Äôs Syracuse‚Äôs all-time leader in total yards and second in touchdowns, but more importantly, has quarterbacked the first ranked Orange team since 2001.
Better yet, before sliding seven spots to No. 19, the Orange hadn‚Äôt been ranked that high (No. 12) since 1998.
To that, Syracuse certainly has Dungey to thank. In his senior season, Dungey ranks 4th¬†in the ACC in passing yards, and second among the conference‚Äôs quarterbacks in rushing.
However, against Notre Dame this past Saturday, Dungey went down with what the team called an ‚Äúupper body injury.‚Äù But from the looks of it, it appeared that Dungey was grabbing his back as he went to the ground.
Whatever the exact diagnosis is, Dungey‚Äôs status for Saturday at Boston College remains unclear, with Dino Babers adding that he hopes the senior is able to play.
If I‚Äôm Babers, I would sure hope Dungey can play too, as BC promises to be a tough test away from home.
But if Dungey can‚Äôt suit up, let this be yet another example in a trend Syracuse fans were hoping would finally end this season.
Dungey has been the starter for four years now, and in the previous three, has missed the last three games of each season.
It‚Äôs a result of two things: Dungey giving maximum effort on every play, but also failing to protect himself adequately.
As the team‚Äôs quarterback and senior captain, it‚Äôs easy to admire the way Dungey risks his body play after play, but do the ends justify the means?
The answer is no. Dungey is far from the first quarterback to struggle with sliding, or simply just limiting the hits he takes outside of the pocket, but experts and coaches alike preach the importance of doing those things for a reason.
That very reason has been reflected in each season Dungey has failed to finish, no matter how much he‚Äôs helped the Orange while on the field.
Sure, as a freshman who wasn‚Äôt meant to start the entire season, 2015 was of a year of tip-toeing in the water for Dungey. However, with the Orange at 3-6, those last three games became lost opportunities for Dungey to continue developing.
How‚Äôd he end up missing those games? Dungey suffered a concussion on a¬†4th¬†quarter run against Louisville.
Fast forward to 2016, Syracuse was 4-4 when the same thing happened to Dungey at Clemson in the first quarter. He exited with the score 10-0, meaning any upset chances the Orange had went by the wayside, but that‚Äôs far from the point.
Syracuse was never beating Clemson in its wildest dreams THAT TIME, but the bigger consequence was not having its quarterback for the final three games of the season.
Left 4-5 after the Clemson game, Syracuse lost its last three to NC State, Florida State, and at Pittsburgh. Who‚Äôs to say that with Dungey healthy, Syracuse doesn‚Äôt beat NC State and Pittsburgh to become bowl eligible at 6-6. It‚Äôs certainly far from guaranteed, but even more so unknown.
When Dungey missed Syracuse‚Äôs last three in 2017, the Orange was again 4-5, just off a tough loss to Florida State. However, at least¬†two of SU‚Äôs last three were winnable games, but without Dungey, the Orange lost each one.
Those last three were Wake Forest, at Louisville, and back home for Boston College. Syracuse lost to Wake Forest and was blown out by Louisville, which made its final game against BC completely meaningless, and it showed.
Now, who‚Äôs to say that with Dungey, the Orange don‚Äôt snatch a win over Wake Forest at the dome, making them one away from bowl eligibility. You can‚Äôt expect them to beat Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals on the road the next week, but a win over BC with a healthy Dungey and more motivated team wouldn‚Äôt be out of the cards. Doesn‚Äôt matter because, again, we‚Äôll never know.
That brings us to this year. Dungey led Syracuse to the No. 12 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings before exiting the Notre Dame loss to injury.
Patiently awaiting the senior‚Äôs status for the season finale, fans can only hope both Dungey‚Äôs year and career are not over. He may have injured his back, but I just don‚Äôt see how Dungey, with his style of play, isn‚Äôt feeling a number of other ailments as well at this point.
Regardless, if we‚Äôve reached the undesirable end of the road for the senior, the best of this season for Syracuse may already be in the rearview mirror.
All told, Dungey‚Äôs time spent off the field over the years has likely changed the complexion of Syracuse‚Äôs program. Dino Babers has proved his worth this year, but would he have had less to prove entering the season if Dungey had been able to stay on the field? That’s another thing we‚Äôll never know.
For now, all fans can do is hope Dungey returns. Without him, Saturday‚Äôs matchup will only be more difficult, and a potential bowl game against a legitimate opponent may not go as originally planned.