Syracuse hosts NC State in key game for both teams
It's must-win time for North Carolina State and Syracuse. Time is running out on their postseason hopes.
Each team has to win two of three to become bowl-eligible, and one will be very disappointed on Saturday after they play in the Carrier Dome.
''That's a major goal we're fighting for,'' North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb said. ''Just got to stick together, stay as a team, and hopefully everything will pan out the way we want it to.''
Both teams are 4-5, with the Orange at 2-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and N.C. State at 1-4.
Syracuse is coming off a 54-0 pounding at No. 2 Clemson. Starting quarterback Eric Dungey was knocked out of the game last Saturday with a jarring hit to the shoulder and head in the first quarter and did not return. He underwent a battery of tests after returning to Syracuse. The team listed him as questionable in its injury report to the ACC on Thursday night.
''We run our system,'' Orange coach Dino Babers said. ''We're going to do the things that we do. You need to do what you've done all year long, and hopefully the players around you, around the quarterback position if Eric doesn't play, play better.''
That means an up-tempo offense that has clicked an awful lot in this first season under Babers, except on the scoreboard. Dungey ranks third in the ACC and 16th nationally in passing yards with 2,679 on the strength of six 300-yard games, and he leads the conference and ranks sixth in the country in completions per game, averaging 25.
''Even if we were pretending the other two guys were going to play, there's not enough film to know what's going to be different,'' Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. ''You have to go in there and plan on seeing Dungey, defending all the things he's been able to do.''
Other things to know when North Carolina State visits Syracuse on Saturday:
QB SHUFFLE: The Syracuse depth chart released earlier this week listed both Austin Wilson and Zack Mahoney as backups to Dungey. Wilson finished 17 of 27 for 116 yards passing against Clemson, both career highs, but threw two interceptions in his first appearance this season. Mahoney, who was 1 of 4 for eight yards against the Tigers, quarterbacked the Orange in last year's 42-29 loss at N.C. State while Dungey was out with an injury and passed for 152 yards and two touchdowns. A walk-on last year, Mahoney also started against LSU and Clemson and played well, earning a scholarship this season.
BATTLE OF THE WIDEOUTS: For the first time in school history, N.C. State has three receivers – Stephen Louis, Bra'Lon Cherry, and Maurice Trowell – with catches of 70-plus yards in the same season. No other ACC school has more than two. Four players on each team have 100-yard receiving games. Syracuse's Amba Etta-Tawo has 1,158 receiving yards, sixth in the nation and second among Power 5 conference players.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: Four of N.C. State's losses have been by seven points or fewer, and Clemson went into overtime. The Wolfpack failed to convert three field goals (one was blocked) against the Tigers, including a 33-yarder on the final play of regulation that would have won the game.
''We've made a lot of progress in a lot of ways, but we still haven't put away teams when we had them on the ropes,'' Doeren said. ''When you get there and don't get it done against two of them, there's no moral victory there. There's progress, there just isn't pleasure.''
DETERMINED DAYES: Senior tailback Matt Dayes needs 169 yards to become N.C. State's first 1,000-yard rusher since T.A. McClendon in 2002 and only the eighth player in school history to reach that mark. This season, Dayes has gained 53 percent (442 of 831) of his rushing yards after contact.
WOLFPACK DOMINANCE: N.C. State is 8-1 against Syracuse. Better yet, the Wolfpack is 4-0 in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse's lone win in the series was 24-10 three years ago, the Orange's first triumph as a member of the ACC.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
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