Mountaineers to face another standout quarterback
CHARLESTON - Slowing down a high-powered offense with a standout quarterback is not unfamiliar territory for this season’s West Virginia University defense.
Playing in the Big 12 Conference, WVU has had to deal with Oklahoma and Kyler Murray, Texas and Sam Elhinger and Oklahoma State and Taylor Cornelius - just to name a few - already this season.
When the Mountaineers (8-3) take on Syracuse (9-3) at 5:15 p.m. Friday in the Camping World Bowl, add the Orange and senior quarterback Eric Dungey to that list.
Dungey has led a Syracuse attack that scores an average of 40.8 points per game - 11th best in the country this season. From what they’ve seen on film, several WVU defenders said Dungey is dangerous with his arm and his legs.
“He’s not like most quarterbacks,” WVU defensive lineman Reese Donahue said. “He’s not going to slide, he’s going to run. He’s a hard runner even though he’s more of a passer. When he does tuck it, he’s not afraid.”
The Oregon native enters his final game at Syracuse with 167 carries for 732 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground this season. Through the air, Dungey has completed 205 of 341 attempts for 2,565 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“The quarterback is good,” WVU All-American linebacker David Long said. “What is he, like 6-2, 240? He’s a nice size quarterback and he’s got some good wideouts and running backs. From what I’ve seen on film, they’re a solid team.
″(Dungey) does a little bit of everything. He’s really balanced. He throws a nice ball and he’s hard to bring down from what I’ve seen on tape. I feel like he controls their offense pretty well.”
Syracuse likes to use tempo on offense and has been one of the best at it in the country this season.
“It’s what we’ve seen all year long in the Big 12,” WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “They’re Oklahoma State. They’re Oklahoma. They’re Texas Tech. That’s the style they like to play.”
The Orange run an average of just less than 90 plays per game, so the Mountaineers will need to be on their toes.
“Quarterback has a little moxie to him,” WVU safety Kenny Robinson said.“It’s a lot of tempo. They try to get you off and out of position.”
GOOD TIME OFF: Time away from football seems to have done the Mountaineers some good.
West Virginia players had time to let the pain of losses at Oklahoma State and at home against Oklahoma to end the regular season fade and also to get healthy.
“That’s always good - to get away from the game and have some peace of mind,” Long said. “Having this time away. When we got back we had to get back to work, that’s what we’ve been of focusing on this week.”
The Mountaineers regrouped last week after the end of the fall semester to practice and had the weekend off. The team will reconvene Monday in Orlando for final preparation for the Camping World Bowl.
“I think (the break) helped us a lot physically because we had a lot of guys banged up,” Robinson said. “It was good for everybody on the team to have time to get healthy and regain their thoughts, relax and not think about football for a few weeks. Just work out, do their own thing. Now that everybody is back, we seem a little more focused. Now we just have to tighten up a little bit and work out the kinks from not practicing.”
HEALING TIME: Two players to benefit from a little extra time before the bowl game are linebackers Brendan Ferns and Quondarius Qualls who missed all of the regular season recovering from knee injuries, but they are each expected to see some playing time for WVU against Syracuse.
It will be a boost to a linebacker group that has been hit hard by injuries all season, Gibson said.
“I think Ferns and Qualls have taken that next step,” Gibson said. “They’re ready, so we should be able to get something out of them.”