Syracuse is still trying to gain attention, even as its quarterback situation is turning some heads.
So the teams meet with plenty at stake Saturday night at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
No. 22 N.C. State saw its undefeated status go by the wayside in a 41-7 setback last week at now-No. 2 Clemson, a numbing outcome considering the hype accompanying a game with national implications.
“It’s one game. That was the message (even before the game),” N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley said. “It wasn’t all or nothing. It’s just one football game and we’re 5-1. We got a lot — half the season left. So it’s not the end of the world, but it was a bad loss and we are a better football team (than we showed).”
N.C. State (5-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) had been off to its best start since 2002.
Syracuse (5-2, 2-2) has questions about who’ll be the starting quarterback, a topic that coach Dino Babers isn’t providing answers this week until game day. The Orange used redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito late in the riveting double-overtime victory over North Carolina.
That change came when starter Eric Dungy was enduring some glitches. Dungy entered the season as one of the ACC’s most experienced quarterbacks.
“We got two good quarterbacks,” Babers said. “I think we should treat that position like any other position. … The really cool thing is our guys only care about getting our sixth win.”
Dungey, a senior, has started at least seven games in each of the past three seasons. He threw for 385 yards and a touchdown last year at N.C. State.
DeVito was a highly touted recruit and his time for an enhanced workload might have arrived earlier than expected.
Syracuse’s last two games went into overtime, so the Orange is used to tight games.
N.C. State didn’t have much go right in the game against Clemson. That’s reason for concern from Babers’ perspective because he expects the Wolfpack will be seeking remedies.
“I’m sure they’re not happy with their performance and they want to take it out on somebody,” Babers said. “We have to work really hard in our house and put our best foot forward to make sure they don’t take it out on us.”
N.C. State players have noted the importance of moving on and not allowing one lackluster outing to multiply.
“We’ve got to be ready to play Syracuse,” receiver Jakobi Meyers said. “We got to start preparing early, make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The Wolfpack could be hampered in the injury department, with receiver Stephen Louis and running back Ricky Person leaving the game against Clemson with injuries.
Finley encountered an unusually rough outing as well, throwing two interceptions without a touchdown. Now, he has 10 touchdown throws and five interceptions this season.
“We’re going to get right,” said Finley, who has started all 32 games since he arrived at N.C. State as a graduate transfer from Boise State with three seasons of eligibility remaining. “We’re going to bounce back. I’m confident in our guys.”
The Orange hasn’t reached bowl eligibility since 2013. Needing one more victory to break that drought, Babers said the focus needs to be on dealing with the Wolfpack.
“We’re trying to win our next game and go 1-0 this week,” he said. “If we do, we’ll accomplish some things we haven’t done around here in a long time.”
Syracuse hasn’t had more than two ACC victories in any of the past four seasons. This year, the Orange has won twice in conference play at home, defeating Florida State and North Carolina.
With four total Carrier Dome victories this season, the Orange is within one of reaching the five-win home mark for the first time since 2003.
Despite the late October matchup between divisional teams, they have only one common opponent so far. Both lost at Clemson, with Syracuse leading late before falling 27-23 last month.
N.C. State leads the series 10-1. The only Orange victory came in 2013, the season when the team last went to a bowl.
For Syracuse, this is the second of three consecutive games against teams from the state of North Carolina, with a trip next week to Wake Forest.