#17 Va Tech defense has no answers; falls at Syracuse

SYRACUSE N.Y. -- Virginia Tech's vaunted lunch pail defense took the day off Saturday as the Syracuse Orange rolled up 561 yards of offense and stunned the No. 17 Hokies 31-17 in an Atlantic Coast Conference game before 33 838 fans at the Carrier Dome. Sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey's 1-yard plunge with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter proved to be the winning score as Syracuse ended a 12-game losing streak against Top 25 teams.

Dungey's touchdown capped a 17-play 75-yard drive that included the Orange's fourth fourth-down conversion of the game - a 5-yard pass from Dungey to wide receiver Erv Phillips on fourth-and-2 from the Hokies' 37. Dungey led Syracuse (3-4 1-2 ACC) to its first win over a Top 25 team since 2012 as he completed 28 of 53 passes for 311 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed 24 times for 106 yards and one score.

Virginia Tech (4-2 2-1) entered the game ranked among the national leaders in just about every key defensive category. The Hokies had outscored their last three opponents by a 132-20 margin and had outscored their two ACC opponents 83-3. Running back Dontae Strickland's 16-yard touchdown run boosted the Orange's lead to 31-17 and Syracuse cornerback Corey Whitfield recovered a fumble by Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans with under four minutes remaining to seal the win.

The Hokies fell behind two minutes into the game and didn't catch up until early in the fourth quarter when Evans connected with wide receiver Bucky Harris on a 10-yard touchdown pass. He found tight end Chris Cunningham for the two-point conversion to knot the score at 17. Trailing 17-3 Virginia Tech opened the second half by driving 83 yards in nine plays and scoring on Evans' 12-yard pass to wide receiver Isaiah Ford in the corner of the end zone. Syracuse's Kendall Coleman blocked kicker Joey Slye's extra-point attempt and Rodney Williams nearly returned it for a score before being tackled deep in Virginia Tech territory.

The scored remained 17-9 as the teams traded end zone interceptions on back-to-back possessions midway through the third quarter. Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds picked off Dungey on a third-and-9 pass from the Hokies' 29 and Orange safety Williams intercepted Evans on third-and-3 from the Syracuse 7.

Orange kicker Cole Murphy who made a 51-yard field goal at the end of the first half missed a 51-yarder late in the third quarter that would have extended Syracuse's lead. The Orange used two long passing plays and that 51-yard field goal to build a 17-3 lead at halftime. On Syracuse's first possession Dungey floated a pass over the middle to Phillips who slipped past linebacker Mook Reynolds to make the catch and complete the 58-yard scoring play.

The Hokies answered with Slye's 36-yard field goal but the Orange scored on their first play of the second quarter. On second-and-5 from the Syracuse 16 Dungey pitched the ball to Strickland who tossed it about 30 yards to wide open receiver Brisly Estime who snared the ball on the run and finished the 84-yard touchdown pass.

The Hokies drove deep into Orange territory late in the first half and appeared to score on Evans' 17-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play. But right guard Augie Conte was whistled for holding and Slye's 45-yard field goal attempt was wide right with 1:47 left in the half.

Dungey who was shaken up and had to leave the game on Syracuse's previous possession returned and drove the Orange to Hokies' 34. With nine seconds remaining Murphy drilled the 51-yard field goal that extended Syracuse's lead to 17-3.

Virginia Tech's defense entered the game ranked third in the county in yards allowed with an average of 237.6. But the Orange compiled 347 yards of offense (310 passing) in the first half and Syracuse's defense limited Virginia Tech to 213.


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