Orange set for ACC opener, still eye the postseason
Even though Syracuse has split its first four games and faces a difficult schedule ahead, the Orange still eye a postseason berth as they get set for their Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
“I’m excited,” quarterback Eric Dungey said. “I’m excited for the progress. Now we’re starting the ACC. The job really starts. We’re 0-0 in the ACC, so this is an important week.”
Syracuse, coming off a tough 35-26 loss on the road to No. 25 LSU, opens ACC play at North Carolina State (3-1, 1-0 ACC) on Saturday. The Wolfpack are fresh from a 27-21 upset victory at then-No. 12 Florida State, which fell out of the AP Top 25 .
“I think it’s a huge win for our players, not just to feel the benefits of their work but to have the confidence that they are a team that can finish anybody, and do it in probably the hardest place we’ll play this year,” North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren said. “That’s a huge deal for those players — to understand that hard work does pay off.”
The Wolfpack defense knew it would have an edge against Florida State before the game even started. The Seminoles hadn’t played in almost three weeks because of Hurricane Irma and freshman James Blackman would be making his first career start at quarterback in place of starter Deondre Francois, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener against top-ranked Alabama.
Still, N.C. State had two turnovers and gave up a touchdown on special teams in surviving a big test.
Although the Orange lost in Death Valley, they played the Tigers to a virtual standstill after Dungey through an interception on the first play from scrimmage and LSU quickly scored.
“To be excited we lost the game, I don’t think there’s anyone excited that we lost the game,” Orange coach Dino Babers said. “But I am excited about the way the team competed in a very difficult venue.”
Dungey has thrown for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions and is the Orange’s leading rusher with 233 yards and five TDs. His favorite target has been senior wideout Steve Ishmael, who leads the nation in receptions per game (11.3) and total catches (45), and ranks third in receiving yardage (512). Ishmael, just added to the 2017 Biletnikoff Award watch list, also has four straight 100-yard receiving games, the third player in school history to accomplish the feat.
“It’s definitely going to be a great test for our defense,” Doeren said. “They play with a lot of tempo, as fast as you’re allowed to play. I don’t think they’re ever going to feel like they’re out of a game.”
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