Syracuse dominates Camping World Bowl, clinches first 10-win season since 2001

Syracuse dominates West Virginia in Camping World Bowl

The Orange exploded in the fourth quarter to guarantee a Syracuse victory.
Published: December 28, 2018
The Syracuse Orange defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers 34-18.
Syracuse Orange running back Moe Neal (21) rushes for a long gain against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Camping World Bowl game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Camping World Stadium on Dec. 28, 2018 in Orlando, Florida.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Two new Syracuse players helped the Orange defeat former Big East Rival West Virginia in the Camping World Bowl, 34-18.

“It was a fabulous game,” Syracuse Head Coach Dino Babers said. “It was a hard-fought battle. I couldn’t be more proud of the 2018 seniors to end in this fashion against a rival opponent because historically they go so far back in our history.”

Two touchdowns from Oklahoma transfer Abdul Adams and one from Michigan State transfer Trishton Jackson helped Syracuse stay afloat in a back and forth contest and clench its first 10-win season since 2001. Adams and Jackson were both eligible to play in the bowl game, despite having to sit out the 2018 regular season.

The Syracuse Orange defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers 34-18.
Syracuse Orange wide receiver Trishton Jackson (86) is tackled after a short gain during the Camping World Bowl game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Camping World Stadium on Dec. 28, 2018 in Orlando, Florida.

“For them to be able to operate at certain parts of our offense at the speed that we like to operate on, I thought it was a really nice job by the assistant coaches and a good job by them getting ready,” Babers said of the newcomers.

Adams said he found out he was bowl eligible in the middle of the season and at first thought people were playing a joke on him.

“I was already practicing hard, taking each and every day to work on my craft even though I wasn’t playing,” Adams said. “I knew I would be ready.”

An Evan Staley field goal put the Mountaineers (8-4, 6-3 Big 12) on the board first, but Syracuse (10-3, 6-2 ACC) came back with a touchdown from Adams a few minutes later. WVU’s Kennedy McCoy had an 11-yard rushing touchdown in the second, but Staley’s kicked a no-good field goal after hitting the left upright. Adams came back with another touchdown before Staley closed out the half with one more field goal.

The Orange began the fourth quarter with a six-point lead over WVU (24-18), and then an interception from Allen Stritzinger gave Syracuse the opportunity for Andre Szmyt to kick a good field goal for a nine-point lead over the Mountaineers.

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey seemed to struggle in the first half. He’d find himself running to dodge the defense, and then continue to run until he either threw the ball away or ran out of bounds. There were times, especially in the second quarter, when Dungey seemed semi-lost while the WVU defense was chasing him around endlessly.

But in what was arguably the most impressive play of the game, Dungey was about to get sacked and passed the ball to Moe Neal just before hitting the turf. Neal then ran and finished the 46-yard play. The down after, Jarveon Howard rushed for a four-yard touchdown to give Syracuse a 34-18 lead with 10 minutes left. Neither team would score after that.

After becoming emotional in the post-game press conference, Dungey said he’s very thankful for the opportunities Syracuse presented him and that Babers believing in him means a lot. Coming off a 4-8 2017 season, Dungey said Babers’ adjustments led the team to victory this season.

“It’s just kind of getting Coach Babers’ system implemented and getting the right guys in the right spot and everyone buying in,” Dungey said. “I think people get a new coach and expect to get wins right away, [but] you’ve got a whole new personality, you’ve got a whole new system that you’ve got to get implemented.”

Dungey finished the game with 21 of 30 passes complete for 303 yards. After tonight’s game, Dungey is now Syracuse’s all-time leading passer after passing former Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib’s record of 9,190 yards. Dungey, who was named MVP, said he’s never cared about personal records and that they wouldn’t be possible without the help of the entire team.

“The only thing I care about is that we got 10 wins for the first time since 2001,” Dungey said. “I’ve never been about the individual stats, I’ve always been about the team. It’s a team game. You’re only as good as your best receiver, as good as your line, and it’s a full 11 people, so that record’s for everybody.”

Thanks to the Orange defense, WVU was only able to get to the end zone once and went 1-2 in red zone attempts, compared to Syracuse’s 3-3. Staley kicked four good field goals for the Mountaineers.

“I thought that Coach (Brian) Ward did a fabulous job, especially when you’re going against somebody like Dana – they mixed it up extremely well,” Babers said about the defensive coordinator. “The timing on everything, the counterpunching of everything – I thought it was a fabulous chess match, and there’s no doubt that Coach Ward did a nice job because that’s one offensive coordinators in college football.”

The Syracuse Orange defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers 34-18.
West Virginia Mountaineers running back Kennedy McKoy (6) runs through the Syracuse Orange defense during the Camping World Bowl game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Camping World Stadium on Dec. 28, 2018 in Orlando, Florida.

Babers noted the offensive and defensive lines both made huge contributions to the Orange victory.

“This is the best offensive line that we’ve ever had,” Babers said. “There’s nothing like being on a basketball team with good, big people. Everybody else can kind of mess around, but if you’ve got the best big person on the floor, you’ve got a lot of wins coming, man. That’s what an O-line gives you and that’s what a D-line gives you: they’re the big guys.”

“I don’t see it like a basketball team, it’s not one or two cats that change this team,” he continued. “It’s going to take an entire football team to do the things in 2019 that the 2018 team did.”

Overall, the team rushed for 115 yards on 43 carries. Defensively, the Orange had 67 total tackles, five sacks, 11 tackles for loss and an interception.

“The trophy is really, really heavy, and I’m glad we got it,” Babers said.