“QUESTIONABLE” — Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey, shown in action against Florida State last week, is listed as “questionable” for Saturday’s game at the Carrier Dome against Wake Forest. Dungey suffered an apparent injury to his right ankle during Syracuse’s loss to the Seminoles. (AP file photo)
Syracuse still needs two more football victories to go bowling
(AP) — Snakebitten but not discouraged, Syracuse’s resolve will be tested some more in the final three games of the season as the Orange chase a coveted bowl bid.
Since beating then-No. 2 Clemson in mid-October, Syracuse (4-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) has lost two tough ones on the road with a bye week in between — 27-19 to unbeaten Miami after trailing 20-19 with 5:23 left and 27-24 last Saturday at Florida State when Cole Murphy missed a 43-yard field goal as time expired.
“The big message is, we’re 4-5 and we no longer can feel good about ourselves,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said.
“We’ve got to find a way to get back to .500.”
Still, there’s no quit in the Orange.
“I think we’re very close,” senior linebacker and captain Zaire Franklin said.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to figure out how to win these close games. When we finally figure that out, we get that confidence that when we go into the fourth quarter we’re going to win. Winning programs make that happen.”
The two losses left Syracuse 0-4 on the road with two home games left and a date at Louisville on Nov. 18.
“There’s confidence and frustration,” Franklin said. “You want to be able to pull out these wins.”
Up next on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Carrier Dome is ACC Atlantic Division foe Wake Forest (5-4, 2-3 ACC).
The Demon Deacons have lost four of five, two of those setbacks to teams ranked third and fourth this week in the AP Top 25 — 48-37 last week at Notre Dame and 28-14 at Clemson a month ago.
Wake Forest is chasing the same postseason prize, but a tough schedule and injuries have derailed the Deacons after a 4-0 start.
“That sixth win is important, a milestone, so for us it’s huge,” tight end Cam Serigne said. “When you set out goals at the beginning of the season, that’s one of them. Anytime you can achieve one of your goals, it’s important.”
Syracuse QB Eric Dungey is the key to the Orange’s chances — he missed the final three games last season and Syracuse lost them all.
Dungey ranks sixth nationally in completions per game (25), seventh in total offense (343.7), and has rushed for nine TDs and passed for 14 more scores with nine interceptions.
“He’ll be ready to go,” Babers said.
“He needs to be able to execute and have the knowledge of the game plan, but him healthy is our best opportunity for winning.”
Last week against the Seminoles, Dungey suffered an apparent injury to his right ankle on the Orange’s first series and sat for much of the first quarter before returning and nearly leading the Orange to victory despite hobbling much of the time.
“He is tough, gritty and a flat-out winner,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “At times, he just wills that team to move the football.”
Dungey was listed as questionable on the Orange injury report released Thursday night.
QB John Wolford leads the ACC in passing efficiency and RB Matt Colburn has two straight 120-yard games to pace the Wake Forest attack.
The Deacons are averaging 31.9 points per game and are on pace to become the highest-scoring team in school history. The 1986 team averaged 29.5.
“Those guys, they’ve got a lot of playmakers,” Franklin said. “This is a very different Wake Forest team than we’re used to facing.”
Syracuse WR Steve Ishmael continues to shine. He was honored this week as ACC receiver of the week after catching 12 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown against Florida State. He ranks second in the nation in both receptions per game (8.7) and total receptions (78).
Wake Forest has lost top WR Greg Dortch for the season to an abdominal injury and against Notre Dame didn’t have S Jesse Bates III, who’s tied for the team lead in tackles (64). Neither Bates nor RB Cade Carney is listed on the depth chart for Syracuse.
Syracuse is ranked first in the nation in third down defense, with opponents converting only 22 percent of the time. Last year the Orange were 82nd in the FBS, allowing opponents to convert 41.4 percent.