Quarterback controversy? Not so, says Syracuse coach
By JOHN KEKIS
Syracuse coach Dino Babers is in a good place, with two quarterbacks who have excelled in this turnaround season. He doesn't buy the notion a controversy is brewing.
"The quarterback is no different than any other player," Babers said Monday. "We've got two good quarterbacks. I think we should treat that position like any other position."
The Orange (5-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) ended a two-game road losing streak with a 40-37 double-overtime victory over North Carolina on Saturday. Syracuse hosts No. 22 North Carolina State (5-1, 2-1) this Saturday night, and the winner will become eligible to play in the postseason, something the Orange haven't accomplished in five years. N.C. State is coming off its first loss of the season , 41-7 to No. 2 Clemson.
"Our guys, all we care about is getting our sixth win," said Babers, in his third season at Syracuse. "We should talk about we're right on the verge of doing something that hasn't been done in quite a while around here. And we really ... don't care who gets the credit."
The Tar Heels put up 500 yards offensively, held the ball 10 minutes longer than the Orange, ran 10 more plays, and scored 20 straight points to take a 27-20 lead early in the fourth quarter as the Syracuse offense stalled behind senior quarterback Eric Dungey. With time winding down, Babers acted on a hunch and sent in redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito, who had sparkled in relief of an injured Dungey in a 30-7 win over Florida State in mid-September.
DeVito delivered again, hitting Nykeim Johnson for a 42-yard touchdown with 1:39 left in regulation to force overtime. He followed with two more scoring passes - to Jamal Custis and tight end Ravian Pierce - to win it.
Dungey finished 17-of-33 passing for 225 yards with zero TDs and zero interceptions, scored on a 16-yard run and was sacked four times. DeVito, who entered the game with just more than 5 minutes left in regulation, was 11-for-19 passing for a career-high 181 yards with one interception and the three scores, also a career high.
Dungey earned high praise from Babers for the way he reacted, cheering for DeVito, joining the celebration after Pierce's catch and never sulking. Dungey was not made available for postgame interviews.
The depth chart for North Carolina State lists Dungey as the starter with DeVito as the backup with no "OR" between their names. Babers would not say who would start, preferring to keep Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren guessing.
"There's no doubt the performances that he (DeVito) has put in means he's good enough to play in the game and help us win," Babers said. "I'm really proud of where Tommy's at. He's been extremely humble and team-oriented about everything. I think we're lucky to have both of them."
This scenario is not new for Babers. In his first season as offensive coordinator at Arizona two decades ago, he had two quarterbacks share the snaps - Keith Smith passed for 1,732 yards and 13 TDs and Ortege Jenkins threw for 1,011 yards and five TDs. The Wildcats finished 12-1 and ranked fourth in country.
When asked if he might duplicate that all these years later, Babers said: "I'm not sure."
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Updated October 23, 2018
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