Syracuse Stumbles Against NC State in ACC Opener
Published on October 1, 2017
Story by Kent Paisley
Photos by Dominique Patrick
Raleigh, N. C. — The Syracuse Orange (2-2, 0-0) ventured into Carter-Finley Stadium for its ACC opener against NC State (3-1, 1-0) on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, with the newly debuted Wolfpack logo scowling at midfield on Military Appreciation Day.
Syracuse left chasing its tail after another failed second half comeback bid, with the Wolfpack winning 33-25.
“We’ve got to find a way to start faster,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “That’s the bottom line. You can’t spot the LSU Tigers and the NC State Wolfpack leads like that and then expect to run them back down in their venues with their crowds behind them.”
NC State Storms to the Lead
Syracuse elected to defer the opening kickoff, and NC State took advantage of the decision.The Wolfpack had scored on its first offensive possession in each game this season.
NC State topped that trend by scoring on its first five possessions in the first half, putting up 26 points on 350 yards from scrimmage. Its only blemishes were a missed field goal from 31 yards and a missed PAT.
“We knew that if we got on them early it would make it tough for them, so we wanted to get them out of their comfort zone,” Wolfpack wide receiver Stephen Louis said.
The Wolfpack approach proved effective as Syracuse opened the game as if having hit the snooze button on the noon kickoff.
Orange gets in its own way
Syracuse began the game kicking the ball out of bounds, setting the Wolfpack up with strong field position at its own 35-yard line. NC State drove for a field goal and a -3-0 lead.
As he had the week before against LSU, quarterback Eric Dungey once again threw an interception on the Orange’s first possession, with NC State cornerback Johnathan Alston securing his team-leading second interception of the season.
The Orange again held NC State to a field goal but then got in its own way again.
Placekicker Cole Murphy who went one of six last season on outdoor kicks, was tasked to convert a 48-yard field goal after Syracuse drove 45 yards. He missed, leaving the score at 6-0 and was benched from field goal attempts for the remainder of the game.
Starting at its own 20, NC State drove 70 yards in five plays, finishing with a 20-yard pass to Louis for the touchdown. The extra point made it 13-0.
Syracuse finally got going with a ten-play, 75-yard drive to get within 13-7. Dungey took it the last seven yards himself. Wide receiver Ervin Phillips highlighted the Syracuse drive with a 37-yard reception. It was one of 17 for him on the afternoon, setting a new school record for receptions in a game. Dungey also surpassed 6,000 career all purpose yards on the opening TD drive.
NC State answered back with a five-play, 75-yard drive, but missed the point after and led 19-7.
Driving after getting the ball back, Syracuse faced a fourth and one at the Wolfpack 17. Babers elected to go for it, leaving the ball in the hands of Dungey. Dungey broke left, and his offensive line broke right.
“I was just trying to get the first down, and there was a little miscommunication,” Dungey said.
That miscommunication resulted in a turnover on downs after Dungey was stuffed. The Wolfpack stayed on the hunt, striking for its final score of the half, leading 26-7.
The stage was set for a blowout, but the Orange responded.
Orange launches a comeback
The second half had the stands significantly thinned out from the start of the contest on the far side of the field. The sun beamed down on the stands the entire game, and fans headed for shade to avoid the heat.
The Orange took advantage of the quieter crowd, scoring a touchdown. The drive was highlighted by a 38-yard pass completion to wide receiver Steve Ishmael on fourth down.
Syracuse gave up one first down to NC State over its first three possessions of the second half.
This opened up opportunities for the offense to respond. On its third drive of the half, the Orange faced third and seven from the NC State eight. Dungey completed a slant route to Ishamel for an apparent touchdown.
But Syracuse once again got in its own way.
Penalty flag thrown into the air. Illegal formation.
Touchdown wiped off the board.
It was 5 of the Orange’s 93 penalty yards on the afternoon.
The Orange settled for three, leaving four critical points behind. Syracuse trailed 26-17 near the end of the third.
The Final bid
The Wolfpack opened the fourth quarter on a five minute, 65-yard touchdown drive. NC State Headcoach Dave Doeren went for one, leaving the game at a 16-point margin, 33-17.
Syracuse had to play a perfect game the rest of the way, needing two touchdowns and two two point conversions to tie the game.
The Orange marched down the field, with Dungey breaking out on a 22-yard run on fourth and four to get Syracuse into the red zone at the Wolfpack 15.
SU failed to move the ball forward another yard. Babers went deep into the playbook with a trick pass on fourth down from wide receiver Devin Butler to tight end Ravian Pierce.
It landed just outside his reach in the end zone.
NC State went three and out, with Babers using two of his three timeouts to stop the clock. Syracuse punt returner Sean Riley returned the Wolfpack punt into NC State territory.
Dungey and the offense scored in one minute n a ten-yard pass to Ishmael. Dungey kept it himself to convert two, and the Orange trailed by eight.
Syracuse never got the ball back, as Finley convertedt a fourth-and-inches into a first down on the next possession to ice the game.
Syracuse won the second half in both games on its road trip, outscoring LSU and NC State 41-28, but ended the road trip winless.
NC State won its 200th game at Carter-Finley Stadium with the victory. The Wolfpack advanced to 2-0 in ACC Play, the first time in eleven years.
State running back Dakwa Nichols was injured on his eighth carry of the season, and had to be carted off the field. Doeren updated his status after the game, saying Nichols is out for the season and will be have knee surgery tomorrow.
The Wolfpack advanced to 10-1 in the series history against Syracuse.
NC State and Syracuse’s next games will be ACC openers for their opponents. NC State hosts Louisville this Thursday at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN. Syracuse returns to the Carrier Dome against the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday at 12:30.