Eric Dungey rode off the field on celebrating fans' shoulders after Syracuse knocked off No. 17 Virginia Tech 31-17 on Saturday for its first victory over a ranked opponent since 2012.
Dungey accounted for 417 yards and two touchdowns to help the Orange beat the Hokies 31-17 on Saturday. Syracuse had lost 12 straight games against ranked opponents by an average of more than 20 points since a topping then-No. 9 Louisville in 2012.
"You can't explain it. It's unbelievable," Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. "Anytime you're trying to rebuild a program, you need that one signature win. ... To get this game right now, at this time, at this moment - this is big."
Dungey passed for 311 yards and ran for a career-high 106. He scored on a 1-yard sneak to give the Orange (3-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) a 24-17 lead with 7:56 to go, and hit Erv Phillips on a 58-yard scoring play in the first quarter. Syracuse shredded Virginia Tech's third-ranked defense for 561 yards.
"Coach Lewis (co-offensive coordinator Sean) and Coach Babers did a great job all week breaking them (Virginia Tech) down," Dungey said. "They helped us prepare to put us in the situation we were in today."
The Hokies were coming off a 34-3 victory at North Carolina.
"We played hard. We weren't as sharp at a couple of positions, but we'll look at that," coach Justin Fuente said. I think you have to give Syracuse credit. They played really well. They played very hard and played inspired football. That's what these guys do. They've been putting points up on everybody."
Held to their lowest offensive output of the season, the Hokies (4-2, 2-1) tied it at 17 with 13:53 to go on Jerod Evans' 10-yard pass to Bucky Hodges and a 2-point conversion catch by Chris Cunningham.
"We've had some trouble before (in the fourth quarter) but the crowd was really behind us," Strickland said.
The Orange had 347 yards of offense in the first half, 221 in the second quarter. The Hokies, ranked second nationally and first in the ACC in pass defense at 132.2 yards a game, yielded 310 yards passing in the first 30 minutes and 405 overall.
"Before the game we felt like we needed to come out with a chip on our shoulder," said running back Dontae Strickland, who connected with Brisly Estime for an 84-yard touchdown. "Even though we were the underdogs, we did that from the jump and you saw what happened. A lot of people doubted us about this game."
The Orange defense had its best half of the season, limiting the Hokies to Joey Slye's 36-yard field goal.
The Orange scored on their sixth play of the game, the 58-yard pass play from Dungey to Philips. On the second play of the second quarter, the Orange used a bit of trickery for their second score. Dungey flipped to Strickland, who threw a perfect strike to Estime for the 84-yard touchdown play and a 14-3 lead. Cole Murphy's 51-yard field gave the Orange a 17-3 halftime lead.
"I think we needed a win like this just to give us some momentum," Phillips said. "A win like this against a ranked opponent gives us a lot of confidence."
The Hokies had Evans' 17-yard touchdown run in the first half nullified by a holding penalty, and Slye then missed a 45-yard field goal. Syracuse defensive back Rodney Williams intercepted Evans' pass from the Syracuse 7 in the end zone, killing a drive, and Evans fumbled with 4:08 to go.
"Those were big momentum plays that changed the momentum," Fuente said. "The interception in the end zone was a big game-changer. We had everything going our way but they stepped up and made a great play."
Syracuse starting defensive end Kendall Coleman sat out the first half as the result of a targeting penalty against Wake Forest a week ago. Coleman, a true freshman who had started every game, was penalized for targeting quarterback John Wolford in the fourth quarter of a 28-9 loss.
Virginia Tech will plummet after the upset loss, possibly out of the Top 25 poll.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies had only allowed 661 yards through the air in their first five games. Syracuse had 405. Virginia Tech had only allowed 20 points combined in its previous three games. The Hokies averaged 39.4 points entering the game.
Syracuse: Three Syracuse players completed passes in the first half: Dungey, Strickland and Estime. Dungey was not sacked in the first half but was knocked out of the game for one play on a hit by free safety Mook Reynolds. Zack Mahoney replaced him. Philips had 11 receptions, Estime eight, Steven Ishmael six and Etta-Tawo five.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies host Miami on Thursday night.
Syracuse: The Orange travel to Boston College next Saturday.