|Posted on November 25, 2017 at 9:25 AM|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Syracuse Orange, in their second season under Dino Babers, had an opportunity to attain their first bowl berth since 2013 (Texas Bowl win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers), needing to win two of their last five games this season.
Instead, the Orange have rolled off course to 0-4 with one game to go and little chance to be invited to a bowl game, unless there are numerous teams that have failed to gain a sixth regular-season win.
Currently, there are 74 teams in NCAA Division I-A, or FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision), that have six wins or more.
There are 38 bowl games and the four spots in the College Football Playoff, meaning that 80 spots need to be filled. The fact that 74 teams have already attained the ever-important sixth win means that Syracuse will be on the outside looking in.
A major issue in Syracuse falling has been their allowance of points to rack up agains their defense. The Orange team that once held the Pittsburgh Panthers, who recently took down the undefeated Miami Hurricanes, to 24 points and the reigning national champion Clemson Tigers to 24 as well, both resulting in victories, has since allowed 64 points to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and 56 to the Louisville Cardinals, each in losses.
"Obviously, injuries play a role in that, said Babers. "Everybody has injuries at this stage of the game. I think the biggest thing is the last two opponents have been able to run and throw the football. When you don't take a dimension away from a football team, it makes them very hard to defend, especially when they've been operating at the level our last two opponents are operating on." Wake Forest amounted 734 total yards of offense on Syracuse, while Louisville gained 727, both having dual-threat quarterbacks in John Wolford and Lamar Jackson, respectively.
Shifting focus to Boston College, Babers offered, "Our hands are full with Boston College because they want to run the ball no matter what, and they are more than capable of forcing their will on people. So it's going to be a very, very difficult task to stop them at our place, but we're looking forward to the challenge." The Eagles are coming off of their bowl-eligibility-clinching win over the UConn Huskies where freshman running back A.J. Dillon gathered 200 yards on 24 carries (8.3 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns and fellow running back, junior Jon Hilliman, amounted 107 yards on 10 carries (10.7 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns himself.
On Syracuse's offensive side, they look to head into their third straight game without starting quarterback Eric Dungey, and have not won a game without him. When asking Babers on setting up the future at quarterback should Dungey's health be an issue again and senior Zack Mahoney finishing his eligibility, Babers replied, "One thing I don't do is I don't talk about guys who haven't been on the football field yet. So I will not talk about [true freshman] Tommy DeVito."
"I think [redshirt-freshman] Rex [Culpepper] is going to get better. As young men play, especially in the quarterback position, they have a tendency to get better. I think that the second half against Louisville was really his first really big time work where it mattered, and there were some really good guys in there playing, and he plays against them, and he did okay."
"Now, if he gets another opportunity -- and I suspect he will -- he needs to do better," Babers went on to say. "That's what normally happens with young players when they start getting playing time. They get the speed of the game. They get the taste in their mouth. They figure some things out, and then normally, if they're made of the right stuff, they get better, and I think that Rex is made of the right stuff. So I would anticipate him getting better."
Culpepper has completed 21 of 41 attempted passes (51.2%) for 238 yards, with two interceptions and no passing touchdowns this season, in his first-ever collegiate action.
Shifting back to Dungey, Babers spoke on the importance of having him on the team, even when that means he is unfortunately on the sidelines due to injury. "Eric is one of our elected team captains, and that's elected by the players. It's not selected by the coaches. And obviously, the way he plays is at a very, very elite level. The way he competes is a very, very elite level. I think that the guys appreciate the way he plays the game, and I think they appreciate, when he can't play the game, being on the sideline and giving them the mental and moral support that they can go out there and do some of the things that he was capable of doing, if not physically, then in heart." Dungey completed 225 of his 377 attempts (59.7%) for 2,495 yards, with 14 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 595 yards (team-leading) on 143 carries (team-leading), with nine rushing touchdowns (team-leading), before going out due to a foot injury after the loss, 27-24, on the road versus the Florida State Seminoles.
"He's a big part of what we do. We appreciate him when he's on the field, and we appreciate him when he's off the field with us in spirit."