As was the case two weeks ago when Terrel Hunt tore his Achilles against Rhode Island, Syracuse lost its starting quarterback Saturday en route to a win at the Carrier Dome. This time, it was Eric Dungey suffering an upper-body injury and leaving the game in the second quarter.
With Syracuse leading 10-3, Dungey was pressured in the pocket before dumping the ball off to Dontae Strickland, who took it 25 yards for a touchdown. But after Dungey let go of the pass, he took a shot to the head from Central Michigan's Mitch Stanitzek. Stanitzek was called for targeting and ejected from the game.
Dungey lie on the field for a few moments and then walked off under his own power. After a nice start to the game, he went to the locker room and didn't return. Without him, sophomores Austin Wilson and Zack Mahoney split time at quarterback as the Orange (3-0) managed to hold on for a 30-27 overtime victory over the Chippewas (1-2) on Saturday afternoon.
With the game tied 3-3 late in the first quarter and Syracuse possession the ball at its own 34-yard line, Dungey floated a ball over the middle for Steve Ishmael, who had raced behind Central Michigan's secondary. Ishmael reached out his arms, caught the ball and got within the Chippewas' five-yard line before being taken down. A play later, Dungey scampered into the end zone on an option keeper, and Cole Murphy's extra point put Syracuse up 10-3.
It was on SU's next drive when the Orange went up 17-3 and Dungey suffered an apparent head injury. After the game, Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer wouldn't say whether or not it was a concussion when asked.
"Eric Dungey has an upper-body injury and we're looking forward to getting back as soon as possible."
After Dungey left the game, Shafer opted to split the plays at quarterback between Zack Mahoney and Austin Wilson. Typically, Mahoney ran more double- and triple-option plays, while Wilson ran more of a pro-style offense.
Mahoney finished 4-of-4 for 19 yards, adding one carry for 12 yards. Wilson finished 4-of-7 for 49 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown came in the second quarter, when Wilson found Jamal Custis with a fade pass in the top left corner of the end zone, putting Syracuse ahead 24-10.
"Coach prepares us every week that, if you're number's called, you got to be able to play," Mahoney said. "And I think Austin and I both felt confident going into the game and prepared when Eric was out. When our numbers were called, I think we both did what we needed to do."
With Mahoney and Wilson taking the reigns, Syracuse's offense stalled for most of the second half, as the Orange didn't register any points. Despite that, the Orange almost held on for the victory in regulation.
With SU up 24-17 late in the fourth quarter, defensive end Luke Arciniega sacked Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush on a 2nd-and-10, and the clock ticked down to 15 seconds. Shafer then opted to use a timeout and on the next play, Rush found Ben McCord for a 27-yard touchdown.
In overtime, though, Syracuse managed to hold Central Michigan to just a field goal on the opening drive. And when the Orange got the chance to score, Mahoney led the offense inside the Chippewas' five-yard line. On second-and-goal from the four, SU running back Jordan Fredericks took a toss from Mahoney and ran right with a chance to seal a win.
"Everything was in slow motion," Fredericks said. "I ran into the back of my receivers, saw the pylon and just reached for it."
He reached far enough to give Syracuse a 30-27 win.
"We found a way... we're 3-0," Shafer said.
SU will take the field again next Saturday when it welcomes LSU to the Carrier Dome at 12:00 p.m. As always, you can catch the game on 88.3 FM WAER.