|Posted on November 11, 2017 at 1:25 AM|
Article by Dan Tortora
Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers has already made a positive impression on this football program not even a full two seasons into the job.
Year 1: Guided the Orange in defeating a top-25 ranked Virginia Tech Hokies' team that ended up winning the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Coastal Division and showed resolve and toughness in the ACC Championship against the eventual national champions, the Clemson Tigers.
Year 2: Aided Syracuse in handing the reigning ACC Atlantic Division champion and reiging national champion, the Clemson Tigers, a loss when Clemson was ranked second in the nation.
In their five losses (home against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders and on the road versus the LSU Tigers, N.C. State Wolfpack, Miami Hurricanes, and Florida State Seminoles), Syracuse was within one score of four teams and within nine of the other, playing themselves into fourth-quarter opportunities in every single one of these match-ups.
"Well, I just think being consistent and being persistent, Babers expressed. "There just comes a time when you have close losses, you have close losses, and then all of a sudden the dam breaks and instead of losing the close ones you win the close ones, and then instead of winning a close one, all of a sudden you start winning some by some very, very large margins."
In contrast, "Last year, we were getting beat very convincingly," Babers added. Last season, the Orange lost games by 34, 25, 17, 19, 54, 15, 31, and 15.
"This year I would like to think that we've been in every single football game, and hopefully we don't have to wait until next year before we get on top of that and start winning some close ones."
As the head coach of Syracuse, Babers is 0-1 against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and their head coach, Dave Clawson, falling 28-9 on the road to the Deacons. Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey failed to score a touchdown through the air or on the ground, and threw an interception, in the 2016 match-up.
This season, a tremendous catalyst of Syracuse's success has been the junior quarterback, as the Orange eye their first bowl berth in the Dino Babers' era.
He is questionable for this game against Wake Forest, following his ankle injury that he played through a week ago on the road versus the Florida State Seminoles.
Looking back at Dungey having his ankle taped and returning to the game against Florida State, Babers offered, "They gave him the green light," speaking on the Syracuse medical staff.
"Eric was all for it, and the only thing I wanted to make sure was that he stayed within himself and if he -- like he could protect himself, let me know and we'll try to win the game a different way. He's a competitor. He's a battler. Obviously he is the straw that stirs the drink for us, and the way he competed in that situation, I didn't know if I'd have him for one series or two series, in the first half and not in the second half, and there he was at the end of the game driving us down to get us in field position for the winning field goal."
"I think he's a heck of a competitor," Babers shared, "and I think that people around the conference are starting to recognize that."
Dungey has accounted for 14 of the team's 15 passing touchdowns and nine of the team's 13 rushing touchdowns through nine games.
With a taped ankle, Dungey ran for 109 yards on 22 carries, just shy of five yards per carry, versus the Seminoles. The Orange were down 14-0. His return aided in getting Syracuse all the way back into the game with an opportunity for a game-tying field goal in the final seconds.
There is no doubt that, under Babers, the Orange are looking better, and Dungey certainly is a major paint brush that is creating a new landscape of artwork for fans to look at and appreciate moving forward.