GOOD START — Syracuse coach Dino Babers, shown in this Sept. 23, 2017 file photo, has the Orange off to a 2-0 start for the first time in his third season leading the Orange. (AP file photo)
Syracuse hosts Florida State looking to get to 3-0
SYRACUSE (AP) — Florida State coach Willie Taggart knows what his Seminoles are up against with Eric Dungey. He’s seen Syracuse’s senior quarterback up close before.
“He’s a hell of a competitor. Kid loves to compete,” said Taggart, who faced Dungey while he was head coach at South Florida. “He can cause you a lot of problems. Our guys are going to have our hands full going against him and, hopefully, it’s just one of those bad days for him that day.”
That day is Saturday, when Florida State (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) visits Syracuse (2-0).
The Seminoles are 10-1 against the Orange, the most recent meeting a 27-24 victory a year ago in Tallahassee.
Dungey missed most of the first half of that game with a broken right foot suffered on his fourth play under center, but he came back in after getting cleared by the team’s medical staff and accounted for 387 yards of Syracuse’s offense and all three touchdowns .
“He’s what makes those guys go, so we’ve got to come out ready to get him on the ground,” FSU defensive tackle Marvin Wilson said.
Dungey didn’t play again after the Florida State game, missing Syracuse’s final three contests while recovering from the injury. Fully recovered now, Dungey has 646 yards of total offense and has thrown for seven TDs with one interception in wins over Western Michigan and FCS foe Wagner to start his final season. He’s ready for the rematch against the Seminoles.
“This is a new Florida State team, new Florida State defense. Florida State is one of the best teams in the nation, regardless of what people say,” Dungey said. “They have the most athletes, so it’s going to be a tough matchup. But I’m confident we have guys that with each week get better and better and better.”
FSU has started Taggart’s first season at the helm with two lackluster performances.
The Seminoles were shut down 24-3 at home by then-No. 20 Virginia Tech in the season opener to fall out of the top 25 and last week had to rally late to beat FCS foe Samford , also at home, behind quarterback Deondre Francois (320 yards and three TDs passing).
That’s a boost for the Orange’s confidence as they try to snap a 10-game losing streak in the series.
“The really cool thing about football is that the most talented team doesn’t win all the time,” Orange coach Dino Babers said.
“The team that plays the best wins. We are going to go out and try to play the very best game and see where that leads us.”
Other things to know when Syracuse hosts Florida State on Saturday:
FAST AND FURIOUS
Syracuse’s up-tempo offense has scored 117 points in the first two games to rank sixth nationally, and Dungey has hit five different players with TD passes, led by Jamal Custis with three.
“They just go very fast,” FSU defensive back Levonta Taylor said. “We’ve just got to do our job. We know how the game is going to flow. We’re going to go out there with something to prove.”
RB Cam Akers was a force in last year’s game against Syracuse, rushing for 199 yards on just 22 carries and scoring twice on the way to a 1,000-yard season as a freshman. So far this year behind an inexperienced offensive line he has 158 yards on 28 carries, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. That’s deceiving because one of his runs was for 85 yards against Virginia Tech, which means he’s gained just 73 yards on the other 27 rushes, an average of 2.7.
“I think he’s just got to relax a little bit and trust his training,” Taggart said.
DEFENSE NEVER RESTS
All but one of Syracuse’s 18 scoring drives in the first two games lasted less than three minutes, which means the defense hasn’t had much time to rest. The Orange defenders are allowing 454.5 yards per game to rank 108th nationally, but they do have five interceptions, one more than all of last season, to rank second nationally. Freshman Andre Cisco has three of the picks.
Florida State ranks 120th in pass defense (341 yards per game) and 95th in total defense (422), and the Seminoles have fizzled a lot in the first half. Halftime adjustments by the staff have been effective, though. FSU has only surrendered 10 points in the second half on 14 drives — a touchdown to Virginia Tech and a field goal to Samford.
STELLAR SPECIAL TEAMS
Syracuse’s special teams have operated at a high level in the first two games. The punt coverage team forced a fumble against Wagner and blocked a kick for the second straight game, and walk-on redshirt freshman place-kicker Andre Szmyt is perfect on 15 extra points and four field goals.
“I can’t put an emphasis on what that means to this football team,” Babers said. “They’re really on top of their A game. If we can say that when this season’s over, we’ll probably be smiling and we may be somewhere sunny.”