Tar Heels stymie Orange QB, so Syracuse subs him out
North Carolina had Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey figured out.
The defensive line blitzed him often in the second half Saturday and forced him into errant throws. Then, they sacked him. On seven consecutive possessions, Syracuse ran 28 plays and gained 54 yards. And the Tar Heels led 27-20.
So Syracuse coach Dino Babers made an unexpected decision. He turned to his freshman backup quarterback Tommy DeVito, who had thrown 34 passes and one touchdown all season.
The Tar Heels appeared baffled. DeVito threw a 42-yard touchdown pass with 1:39 left in the game to send it to overtime.
The freshman threw two more touchdown passes to help lead the Orange to a 40-37 win in double overtime against the Tar Heels. UNC will play at Virginia next week. Here are five observations from the game:
1. UNC APPEARED CAUGHT OFF GUARD BY FRESHMAN QB
All week, UNC coach Larry Fedora had raved about Dungey and how his play motivates his team. Fedora said if Dungey runs, he’s trying to punish the defender. The Tar Heels prepared well for him. They shut him down in the second half.
But they did not appear prepared for DeVito, whom Babers put in late in the fourth quarter. Coming into the game, Devito was 17-34 for 218 yards and one touchdown in four games played.
“I thought it might be a spark,” Babers said.
DeVito finished the game 11-for-19 for 181 yards and three touchdowns. He also had one interception.
“The guy had a career day, threw the ball really well,” Fedora said. “He made some really great throws. Put the ball right where it had to be. So you have to give him credit.”
2. MORE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
The Tar Heels had multiple chances to end the game, and even win it after they lost the lead.
Senior kicker Freeman Jones missed a 45-yard field goal with 5:16 left to play that would have put the Tar Heels up by 10.
A few minutes later, UNC ran a trick play on third-and-four, a pass from Anthony Ratliff Williams to tight end Carl Tucker out of the wildcat formation. There were 2:17 left in the game. The pass was a little low, but Tucker, who was wide open, got his hands on the ball and dropped it.
A catch there likely would have ended the game too.
After Syracuse had tied the game, and had the ball again to win it, junior cornerback Patrice Rene came up with an interception at the Syracuse 38 with 52 seconds left. A few yards would have put UNC in field goal position to win it. But UNC went five straight plays without gaining a yard.
3. ELLIOTT HAD ARGUABLY HIS BEST GAME
After being benched in favor of freshman quarterback Cade Fortin last week, Elliott came back with one of his best games of the season. He was 20-for-25 in the first half for 160 yards and a touchdown.
In the second half, he was 12-for-23 for 157 yards. He made some bigtime throws in the first half on third downs. And this was when UNC’s running game was averaging less than two yards per carry. Elliott’s play seemed to give the rest of the team confidence.
Elliott’s best stat was his zero turnovers. Still the loss hurt.
“It was pretty heartbreaking,” Elliott said. “I feel like we had multiple opportunities that we could have sealed the game. We’ve got to be better in those situations.”
4. DEFENSE GOT PRESSURE WITHOUT CARNEY
It had been a struggle getting pressure on the quarterback without senior defensive end Malik Carney. But with Carney serving his final game of suspension, UNC still brought the pressure. UNC recorded five sacks and forced Dungey into some bad passes.
That’s a good sign for the defense, which will get its best pass rusher back for the rest of the season. That is unless UNC schedules a 12th game. Carney has 5.5 sacks in three games played.
Senior defensive end Tyler Powell had two sacks Saturday. Junior defensive linemen Jason Strowbridge and Allen Cater had one sack each, and senior linebacker Allen Artis had a sack too.
5. RENE HAS BEEN LIGHTS OUT RECENTLY
Patrice Rene seems to be gaining confidence. He recorded his second interception of the season, and second of his career. He also had a pass breakup. His interception with 52 seconds left in the game at the Syracuse 38 put the Tar Heels in a position to win the game.
Rene had a big interception against Virginia Tech too. He struggled against East Carolina, but has come on strong recently.