SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — It’s been a month since Syracuse coach Dino Babers delivered a stirring postgame locker room speech that went viral on social media after the most important victory of his first year with the Orange.
But since that upset win over then-No. 17 Virginia Tech, “Our house!” has become “Their house.” Syracuse lost its next home game — 35-20 last week to North Carolina State to fall to 2-3 in the Carrier Dome. Now, the Orange have a chance to reclaim their house and send their seniors out with a victory when they close their home schedule on Saturday against No. 17 Florida State (7-3, 4-3 ACC, No. 17 CFP).
It’s an important game for both teams.
The Seminoles have won four of five and are striving to keep the momentum going to reach an upper-tier bowl game, while the Orange (4-6, 2-4 ACC) are simply trying to qualify for the postseason with only two games left in the regular season.
“I don’t settle for anything. I’m not going to settle,” Babers said. “So, there is no bone in my body that says, hey, I’m looking forward to next year. My whole task is finding … a way to win now. And if we can’t, then at least we know we did everything we can possibly do.”
Syracuse has been hit hard by injuries, and starting quarterback Eric Dungey tops the list. Sidelined by a hard shoulder-head hit two weeks ago in a 54-0 loss at Clemson, he was listed as questionable against N.C. State, did not play, and was still awaiting results of a second battery of tests. He’s listed as doubtful for Florida State.
The Seminoles aren’t taking any chances.
“We’ve got to anticipate Dungey will play,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You have to anticipate for Dungey to play, and you have to look at the other guys and prepare for them. It makes it difficult.”
Other things to know when No. 17 Florida State plays at Syracuse on Saturday:
COOK’S CORNER: FSU tailback Dalvin Cook needs just 19 yards to eclipse Warrick Dunn’s 20-year-old record (3,959 yards) and become the school’s career leading rusher. He also needs 59 yard to reach 4,000, which would make him the sixth back in ACC history to accomplish the feat and the first as a junior.
“I’ve been thinking about it all week. They’ve been reminding me in the locker room,” Cook said. “Hopefully, we get it over with fast.”
Cook has 19 career 100-yard games, and the first came two years ago in the Carrier Dome against the Orange. He rushed for 122 yards and one TD on 23 carries and still calls it his “coming-out game.”
SUPER SUB: Last year Syracuse walk-on QB Zack Mahoney started four games in place of Dungey, who suffered at least one concussion and was hit hard several times. Mahoney played so well, especially against LSU and Clemson, that he was awarded a scholarship for this season. He did OK against the Wolfpack, finishing 13 of 24 for 190 yards and one touchdown with an interception.
“I think Zack played extremely well,” Babers said. “It’s not about what Zack does for our football team. It’s what the other 21 guys have to do. Anytime you lose a person of Eric’s caliber, you don’t expect the back-up guy to come up and play at that same level.”
DEFENSE RULES: FSU is coming off a dominant defensive performance in a 45-7 win over Boston College . The starters held BC scoreless and allowed just 86 total yards (57 rushing, 29 passing), and three first downs while forcing nine straight 3-and-outs.
“I think we have a high ceiling,” LB Matthew Thomas said. “We go out there, play how we want to play. Syracuse, they shouldn’t score on us if we do what we want to do, so it’s all on us.”
RECEIVERS EMERGING: Auden Tate (101 yards vs. Boston College) and Nyqwan Murray (153 yards vs. N.C. State) have started to emerge as viable passing options in the Seminoles offense. With Jesus Wilson out for the remainder of the season, both sophomores have seen their snaps increase and could have big games against a Syracuse secondary that is 13th in passing defense in the ACC. Florida State has had four players with 100-yard receiving games this season.
RED ZONE SUCCESS: Florida State has converted its last 19 opportunities in the red zone, including 15 touchdowns.
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