SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Eric Dungey’s first college start wasn’t going so well as Syracuse tried to stay close to Wake Forest.
Then, with time winding down in the third quarter, the freshman snapped out of a game-long funk and hit Brisly Estime with an 89-yard touchdown pass.
It was just Syracuse’s fourth play from scrimmage after halftime and it was huge, giving the Orange a 20-17 lead.
“I was just trying to have a level head,” said Dungey, who was 4 of 7 for 35 yards in the first half and finished 8 of 13 for 221 yards. “I had to try to keep my composure.”
Starting in place of injured Terrel Hunt, Dungey succeeded keeping his emotions in check in a very big way. Early in the fourth, he hit Steve Ishmael along the right sideline over the outstretched arms of a Wake Forest defender for a 53-yard score and the Demon Deacons (1-1) were finished. Cole Murphy capped the scoring with a short field goal to give Syracuse a 30-17 victory on Saturday.
“It’s very frustrating,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “We were in position to win the game. You can’t let the ball get over your head twice.”
Syracuse (2-0), which has won four straight in the series, played turnover-free for the second straight week.
The first-down throw to Estime, Dungey’s first completion of the second half and just his fifth of the game, was sidearm. The speedy wideout caught it at the Syracuse 37-yard line and outraced the defense for the decisive touchdown with 2:01 to play in the quarter.
“He did a good job,” Orange offensive coordinator Tim Lester said. “He didn’t get down. I tried to keep it as simple as possible. Later on in the game, you get more and more aggressive with your play calling. He made a couple of good throws late.”
After Syracuse forced a punt, Dungey kept alive the ensuing drive with a 20-yard completion on third-and-10, the Orange’s only success in nine tries on third down. Two plays later, he hit Ishmael along the right sideline over the outstretched arms of a Wake Forest defender, and Ishmael danced untouched into the end zone.
The Syracuse defense knocked Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford out of last year’s game, rendering the Demon Deacons’ already-struggling offense even more ineffective in a 30-7 win. Wolford ended his freshman year last fall with a three-touchdown performance against Duke and picked right up last week in a 41-3 win over Elon, passing for three TDs and a career-high 323 yards. He also had a 70-yard scoring run.
Wolford was poised to lead the Demon Deacons to the victory in this one before Dungey’s heroics. He was 18 of 22 for 234 yards in the first half, hitting KJ Brent with a 40-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and scoring on a 6-yard run in the second. The Demon Deacons outgained the Orange 265-108 and took a 17-13 halftime lead.
Wolford finished 30 of 45 passing for a career-high 373 yards but was intercepted three times and sacked four times.
Syracuse failed to convert on all five third-down chances it had in the opening half and fell behind despite two forced turnovers by the Orange defense. Parris Bennett’s first-quarter interception set up Murphy’s 35-yard field goal and defensive end Donnie Simmons gave the Orange a 13-7 lead early in the second when he intercepted Wolford’s pass in the right flat and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown.
Syracuse, which lost Hunt for the season with a torn Achilles suffered in the first quarter against Rhode Island, also played without Ervin Phillips, out with a torn meniscus. Philips, one of the team’s top playmakers, caught two TD passes from Dungey in the opener.
Former Syracuse coach Dick MacPherson was honored after the first quarter. During his 10-year tenure, MacPherson coached the Orange to one of just two undefeated seasons in school history — 11-0-1 in 1987 — and had two of the school’s six double-digit win seasons.
“We had to win this game for coach Mac,” said Orange coach Scott Shafer, who hugged MacPherson during the on-field celebration. “That was our No. 1 priority.”