Penalties and Mistakes Prevent Football’s Comeback Victory over NC State
By Chris Thomsen
RALEIGH, N.C. – As the designed play crumbled before his eyes, Eric Dungey had no choice but to scramble in the red zone. The junior was desperate to get a touchdown on third down to bring the Orange within one score in the third quarter.
Instead, he was decisively sent to the ground by NC State’s Eurndraus Bryant. The defense certainly had the right to celebrate its triumph after a third down stop. But NC State star Bradley Chubb decided to slapp the Orange quarterback’s helmet following the hit as he retreated to the sideline.
That didn’t sit well with Airon Servais. The center shoved Chubb out of the way, who made a scene out of the push. Chubb’s acting skills were rewarded with a 15-yard penalty, a loud “Wolf-Pack” cheer from the crowd at Carter-Finley stadium, and finally, a post-penalty scuffle that involved Orange and Wolves alike.
The Orange had been close to playing mistake-free football in the second half — until that moment. Servais’ penalty would cost Syracuse a potential touchdown. When asked if he would’ve gone for it if no flag was thrown, head coach Dino Babers even broke out his Spanish, responding with a single, “Si.” But wasn’t the only mistake that took potential points off the scoreboard in a 33-25 loss to North Carolina State.
All penalties and miscommunications can be pointed to one thing, according to Babers: his team’s youth.
“We’ve got to let our guys grow up,” Babers said. “We’re playing with two freshmen. A lot of those guys are playing seniors and juniors. There’s a bunch of development between 18 and 19, with a man, and 20, 21, 22.”
The small errors that killed the Orange defense in the opening two quarters, such as reckless pass interference plays or defensive holding, were replaced by aggressive pressure against NC State quarterback Ryan Finley in the second half. That, in turn, forced Finley to throw off-target passes to the same receivers who had amassed 141 yards in the first half.
Chubb’s Emmy award-winning tactics late in the third quarter seemed to be a turning point. The Orange had its most demotivating set of downs on its next possession, thanks to a Chubb sack and QB hurry. In the next series, Syracuse’s defense would allow another touchdown. The day looked like it was over once ‘Cuse couldn’t convert on fourth down inside the red zone with over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Then SU’s defense would force a quick three-and-out with five minutes to go. Sean Riley’s 34-yard return to the NC State 33-yard line put Eric Dungey in prime position to get his third touchdown of the day. The Orange were down by eight with four minutes left.
By that point, the defense had given everything it had. NC State would advance and run out the clock, handing Syracuse its third loss of the year.
All the pieces of a solid win were present in Raleigh. Erv Phillips set an ACC single-game record with his 17 receptions, which went for 188 yards. Eric Dungey, minus an interception on his first throw (the second consecutive game in which he did so), threw for 385 yards and had three total touchdowns. That’s not to mention Steve Ishmael, who also had six receptions for 120 yards.
Those offensive stats could appear mediocre next weekend when Syracuse hosts Pitt in the Carrier Dome. The two division rivals combined to score 137 points in last season’s finale.