Syracuse football rolls past Florida State in ACC opener

Syracuse football rolls past Florida State in ACC opener

SU is off to its first 3-0 start since 2015.
Published: September 15, 2018
Syracuse University running back Dontae Strickland (4) celebrates a touchdown with his teammates during the Orange's 30-7 win over Florida State.

A defensive battle in the first half did not last, as Syracuse (3-0) exploded for 24 points after halftime and defeated Florida State, 30-7, inside the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon.

The Syracuse defense was stifling from the start as Florida State only recorded one first down during the entire first quarter. The SU defensive line held FSU (1-2) scoreless until there were just six minutes left in the game. The Orange defense sacked quarterback Deondre Francois four times, Christopher Fredrick intercepted one of Francois’ passes, and the Orange limited the Seminoles to just one third-down conversion over 14 opportunities.

“If they can’t score, they can’t win,” said SU defensive lineman Kendall Coleman, whose team moves to 1-0 in ACC play. “This performance shows a lot of growth and will establish who we are this season.”

While the defense was there from the beginning for Syracuse, it took the offense a while to warm up. The Orange got on the board around the midway point of the second quarter with a 22-yard field goal from Andre Szmyt.

With about three minutes left in the first half, quarterback Eric Dungey took a big hit from a defensive end. Dungey was eventually subbed off and Tommy DeVito replaced him. Szmyt knocked home a 19-yard field goal to end the half with Syracuse up 6-0.

Dungey did not return to the game, for head coach Dino Babers said the senior was experiencing blurred vision in one eye. Dungey finished with 75 passing yards and 33 more yards on the ground.

Although their main signal-caller was sidelined, it did not stop DeVito and the Orange from putting points on the board.

Redshirt freshman QB Tommy DeVito replaced starting quarterback Eric Dungey who left the game near the end of the first half.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy DeVito replaced starting quarterback Eric Dungey who left the game near the end of the first half.

The offense picked up steam and the defense continued to smother the Seminoles in the second half. DeVito looked comfortable on the field in relief, and eventually opened the scoring in the third quarter with his first career touchdown on a short run into the end zone.

The atmosphere in the Carrier Dome exploded after Coleman’s second sack of the game with 5:22 left in the third quarter on a third down. Syracuse’s offense worked its way down the field, resulting in DeVito’s first career touchdown pass to tight end Ravian Pierce. With that Syracuse touchdown and the sound of “Let’s Go Orange” chants coming from the Carrier Dome fans, the Orange led 20-0 with 3:33 left in the quarter.

DeVito finished 11 of 16 with 144 yards and a touchdown in the air to go along with the rushing touchdown.

Florida State finally got on the board with a touchdown via a Francois two-yard run in the fourth quarter, but Syracuse did not let the Seminoles have any hope. Szmyt drilled another field goal and Dontae Strickland scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the season to cap off a 10-point fourth quarter.

Although Babers believed his team played a nearly complete game against a good team, the third-year head coach wants to remain level-headed.

“It’s only one game, let’s not go overboard,” Babers said. “We are 1-0 in the ACC. That gives us a chance.”

Moe Neal led the Orange backfield with 75 yards on 19 carries, while Jamal Custis hauled in four passes for 56 yards. Francois completed 50 percent of his passes for 178 yards and a pick. Cam Akers rushed for 53 yards and Keith Gavin had 79 receiving yards to lead the Seminoles.

The win marks the first time Syracuse has beaten FSU since the 1960s and improves SU’s record to 3-0 on the season. The Orange face UCONN next Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Dome.