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Eric Dungey Cements Legacy

By Dave Holcomb
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The last time Syracuse football won double-digits games in a season, Orange senior quarterback Eric Dungey was a mere five years old. Fittingly, it was Dungey leading Syracuse to its 10th victory of the 2018 season, Friday night.

The last time Syracuse football won double-digits games in a season, Orange senior quarterback Eric Dungey was a mere five years old. Fittingly, it was Dungey leading Syracuse to its 10th victory of the 2018 season Friday night.

It wasn’t a flawless night for the senior, but Dungey overcame two interceptions to carry Syracuse to a 34-18 victory against old Big East rival West Virginia in the Camping World Bowl.
With the win, Syracuse finishes with 10 wins for the first time since 2001.

That, along with the program’s passing record, which he earned Friday, Dungey has firmly secured his place among Syracuse football legends. As far as 21st century Orange football players go, Dungey may be the best and most important of any player who’s wore navy and orange in upstate New York.

With the two interceptions, Dungey tossed for 303 yards, averaging 10.1 yards per attempt, and a touchdown. During the third quarter, he surpassed Ryan Nassib for the most passing yards in Syracuse history with 9,255.

But the fourth quarter is where Dungey and Syracuse shined the most. The senior quarterback found Trishton Jackson for a 14-yard touchdown seconds into the final stanza, which put the Orange back ahead by six.

Up until that point, there had been seven lead changes, but there wouldn’t be another because the Syracuse defense didn’t yield another point. Sophomore defensive back Allen Stritzinger delivered the turning point of the game following Jackson’s touchdown, intercepting West Virginia quarterback Jack Allison’s next pass.

While Syracuse settled for a field goal on its ensuing possession, the following West Virginia drive ended in a three-and-out, and the Orange added another touchdown on the next drive to essentially pull away.

Before the game, much was made by the fact West Virginia quarterback Will Grier wasn’t going to play. Throwing for 277 yards, Allison played very well in his place, but that interception proved costly, as it extended the Syracuse lead to two possessions.

With the help of that play, the night belonged to Dungey, who experienced his ups and downs during his Syracuse career. He possesses the heart of a lion. It’s why he broke down emotionally at his Camping World Bowl postgame press conference.

Often times, though, that heart got him into trouble. While fighting for extra yards, Dungey suffered unnecessary injuries throughout his career, and that prevented him and Syracuse football from winning more than four games in each of Dino Babers’ first two seasons.

Healthy wise, the stars finally aligned for Dungey in 2018. While he did leave with injuries multiple times, including early in the blowout loss against Notre Dame, the senior played in every game this year for the first time in his career. Prior to this season, he had never played in more than nine games.

Playing the whole season helped Syracuse reach its full potential during Babers’ third year. The Orange sat at 4-4 at the end of October last season, but without a healthy Dungey in November, Syracuse ended the year on a four-game losing streak.

In 2018, the Orange wouldn’t lose four games all season. Most impressively, two of their three losses came against playoff teams, and they suffered their third loss against Pitt. At the time, that was a tough defeat, but it looks better now because the Panthers put together a good run late in the year to win the Coastal Division.

Babers now faces the tall task of repeating this magical season in 2019. Syracuse hasn’t posted back-to-back 10-win seasons since 1991-92. Heck, the Orange haven’t recorded back-to-back eight-win seasons this century either -- last doing that in 1997-98.

Syracuse will look to end those long droughts without Dungey next season. That will be difficult -- without Dungey, the Orange are losing their best player and emotional leader.

But the senior paved the way for the Syracuse football program to be successful. Babers had a vision for how to turn around the Orange. Thanks to Dungey, that vision has become a reality, and Syracuse appears ready to be relevant again during football season for the foreseeable future.