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Virginia Tech Hokies vs Syracuse Orange: A Decisive ACC Matchup for Both Teams

The Orange and the Hokies renew an often frustrating and nearly even relationship that hasn't developed into a rivalry, but it might make "Past Grudge Match" status. The Hokies head to the Carrier Dome for their 3rd ACC game looking to prove something, both to themselves and the sports media world. #OneGameOneTeamRightNow

Fuente wearing the right gear.  Doing the right things, too.
Fuente wearing the right gear. Doing the right things, too.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse is the key to the island of Sicily, or that's what the Athenians thought (or were talked into) during a crucial period in the disastrous Peloponnesian War.  The invasion was a disaster, the victories completely Pyrrhic (another ancient Greek misadventure with the Romans a bit later).  Okay, okay, THIS Syracuse is in western New York.  It is in the heart of a geographic location that has more in common with western Pennsylvania or Eastern Ohio than what we think of as the concrete, steel, and glass of New York City.   In fact it probably has more in common with Roanoke than the Big Apple.

The one thing that Syracuse does have that a large portion of the rest of the state of New York doesn't is a college football team that fields a team in a major conference at the FBS level.  The University of Buffalo is relatively new on the national recognition game, and of course there is still Army (even if it does struggle -€” another story another blog, perhaps.) Let's just say that New York State is not blessed with a large number of high powered collegiate football programs.

That sort of makes Syracuse a popular regional draw.  Add to the fact that the Orange (a team name that is an adjective is another story for another time, too.) play their games in the "infamous" Carrier Dome, gives the game a bit of a different flavor.  One hopes that they have upgraded the turf since 2002.

Syracuse and Virginia Tech don't have a huge history behind us.  We played them once in 1964, and lost.  Then we played them again on the cusp of our joining the old Big East, and didn't faire too well, with two wins and three losses between 1985 and 1992.  Even after the steady buildup of the Beamer Era, Tech could never do more than trade wins and losses.  The Orange have the series edge at 9 wins of the 17 games in the mostly Big East series.

Well I hear that old aphorism "that was then, this is now".   I also have to fight the urge to wince and shiver just a bit.  We don't have what would be classically termed a "rivalry" but Syracuse has been one team that gets on the very last nerve of every Hokie football fan.  No matter how good we are, or how much they are struggling, Syracuse always seems to face off against us with a serious drive to win the game.  Our being on the short end of a see-saw record doesn't give much comfort either.

So, who are the Syracuse Orange?  What do they play and how'd we end up getting wrapped up in playing them again?  As the post Hokie/Miami/BC jump to the ACC Big East began to wear on, the better teams began to look for a power conference to land in.  Since Tobacco Road had broken past the Mason-Dixon Line and moved to Boston, it seemed pretty natural for the conference to reach out to Pitt and Syracuse to add to the team balance in the divisions.  The Coastal got Pitt of course, and that's a lament that will be coming.  The Orange landed in the Atlantic.  You think this conference has enough Orange?  Us, ‘Cuse, Clemson, and the Hoos all sport some form of Orange.  At least Burnt Orange doesn't look like a life vest.

I am here to tell you that the Orange have an offense even if their record is 2-4; and it's not going to be raining in the Carrier Dome.  Their Quarterback Eric Dungey has passed for nearly 1890 yards this season, with 11 TD's and five rushing Touchdowns.

Passing Yards:

E. Dungey


Passing TDs:

E. Dungey


Rushing Yards:

D. Strickland


Rushing TDs:

E. Dungey


Receiving Yards:

A. Etta-Tawo


Receiving TDs:

A. Etta-Tawo



D. Ellison


Their leading rusher true Sophomore Dontae Strickland doesn't seem to get the ball much, and has scored only once on the ground.   He's been handed the ball 86 times and averaged about 4 yards a carry.  While that doesn't seem like much, it will mean something with a running QB and a 3rd and short between us and getting the ball back to the offense.

Syracuse's main offensive threat is the combination of Dungey to Redshirt senior receiver Amba Etta-Tawo.  As you can see he is approaching 900 yards, and has 6 touchdowns.  The Orange spread it around to other receivers, but Etta-Tawo seems to be the guy that gets the results.  Dino Babers has some history with Justin Fuente, something about a seriously close game and a narrow escape for the Hokies' coach in his Memphis gear.

The wise guys seem to be giving the Orange 20, and that might be one of those "embarrassing" hardcore judgements that ignite a response from a 2-4 team (0-2 in the ACC) to show everyone that even an underdog can bite in his own doghouse.  The Syracuse sports opinion guys are predicting that Babers will get some points but they don't seem to be arguing with the Reno to Vegas crowd.

All of this adds up guys.  Justin Fuente has been impressively firm on his emotional approach to each football game. Address the game at hand and prepare to win against a team that can beat you.  Syracuse isn't a trap game, but we need to be very wary.  They are very young (sort of like we will be next season).  They have a high powered offense that can put up tons of yards and points, but their defense is struggling.  However, Bud Foster is reinvigorated and once again is driving opposing offensive coordinators nuts.  Our past record in the Carrier Dome has been mediocre, and the ghost of Donovan McNabb is actually a bracing wake-up call.

Tech wins this football game IF we go to the Cave of the Orange... and play all three phases at the highest level.   I expect Dino Babers will challenge the Defense.  He's going to run his offense, and he's going to make Bud Foster earn his paycheck.

Syracuse wins only IF we beat ourselves.

One Game. One Team. Right Now.