Etta-Tawo Shines in Syracuse’s 33-7 Win on Opening Night
By Chris Thomsen
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — This was supposed to be Dino Babers’ coronation.
The new guy in town was the first one out of the tunnel as he led his players onto the Carrier Dome field. The stage was set for the debut of his branded “Orange is the New Fast” offense.
Yes, he impressed the 31,336 fans in the Carrier Dome as his team scored 33 unanswered points after giving up a first quarter touchdown to Colgate. Babers became the first SU coach to win his opener since Paul Pasqualoni in 1992.
And after the game, he promised the Syracuse faithful that his players will push the gas pedal even further.
“That will be the slowest game you will ever see us play,” said Babers. “Did you see the paint dry? I did.”
Fans may not have noticed that much, but their eyes were glued on someone else: another newcomer.
In the first quarter, sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey – who finished with 355 passing yards and two touchdowns – threw a pass down the left side of the field.
At first, it looked like Maryland transfer Amba Etta-Tawo wouldn’t be able to bring it in. Colgate’s Cortney Mimms had his arm interlocked between Etta-Tawo’s stretched limbs.
But Etta-Tawo made the catch – not only marking his first reception on the Orange, but his first touchdown as well. That tied the ballgame at seven.
Etta-Tawo finished with 12 receptions for 210 yards – a career high for the transfer.
“The techniques that we work on in practice really just gave me the opportunity to keep my foot up,” Etta-Tawo said. “It comes naturally when you work so hard in practice.”
Etta-Tawo caught Babers’ attention with a fantastic reception in the second quarter. On second-and-five, Dungey launched the football down the Syracuse sideline, again in Etta-Towa’s direction. This time, he was able to burst away from his defender, lunging 37 yards down the field to make the catch.
That drive would end in a Cole Murphy field goal, but Babers dismissed that the catch had any diminished importance.
“There was a lot of technique involved, a lot of technique that he’s worked on since he transferred here,” Babers said. “And you saw all of that on the play on the sideline.
“I know that wasn’t a touchdown. But to me, that was his best play in the night.”
Of course, Etta-Tawo wasn’t the only receiver bearing orange. Erv Phillips caught 14 receptions (tied for a Syracuse single-game record) for 87 yards and a touchdown while junior Steve Ishmael earned 36 yards on six catches. Etta-Tawo and Phillips became the first duo in SU history to record at least 10 receptions in a single game each.
But Babers was specifically impressed with Etta-Tawo’s transition to Syracuse, which was embodied in that 37-yard catch.
“There was a ton of growth, a ton of faith and belief without evidence in that,” Babers said. “And he exercised all of that in that one play.
“I’m so proud of him.”