All eyes on Dungey, as Syracuse faces off with West Virginia
By TIM REYNOLDS
And that's high praise.
There is one distinct difference, of course: When the Orange (9-3) and the Mountaineers (8-3) renew their rivalry in the Camping World Bowl on Friday, Dungey will be on the field and Grier will not. West Virginia's star quarterback ended his collegiate career a game early so he can begin preparing for the NFL draft, and the Mountaineers will have to deal with both his decision and the playmaking dynamo that is Dungey in this one.
"He can make things happen in the air and, if he needs to, with his feet," West Virginia defensive lineman Ezekiel Rose said. "They extend plays, he knows how to run, and he's a very versatile guy. He brings everything. He's actually really smart, so I'm expecting him to do some things like I see in practice from Will."
Dungey leads a Syracuse offense that is averaging 40.8 points per game and he does it in the dual-threat style - he's one of three active quarterbacks with more than 8,000 career yards passing and another 1,000 rushing. He's only 29 rushing yards shy of 2,000 in his career, and his college finale will be his postseason debut.
"It's the first bowl game for basically everybody on the team," Dungey said. "There's just a lot going on."
Former Miami quarterback Jack Allison and freshman Trey Lowe will both get time as Grier's replacements for the Mountaineers. Allison is 6 for 10 this season, and Lowe has yet to attempt a pass in 2018.
"Guys can elevate pretty quickly when they're not a backup anymore," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.
West Virginia averaged 42.3 points per game this season, and the Mountaineers still have plenty of options on the offensive side of the football. That's why Syracuse coach Dino Babers thinks it'll be the guys lining up against Dungey, Allison and Lowe who will decide the outcome on Friday.
"I think it's going to be very interesting," Babers said. "Everyone keeps talking about the offenses, but in bowl games it always seems like it's the opposite. I think it's going to come down to the two defenses, the special-teams play and the offenses of both teams will probably be third."
Here's some other things to know going into Friday's Syracuse-West Virginia matchup:
Grier was stellar this season, completing 266 of 397 passes for 3,864 yards and 37 touchdowns. Allison is a pro-style quarterback, whose tendencies somewhat mimic Grier's in that regard, while Lowe was recruited as more of a dual-threat player. Grier announced earlier this month that he would be sitting out to begin his draft preparations.
Top offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste will join Grier in sitting out the bowl game for West Virginia, citing a desire to prepare "for the next chapter in my life." Wide receiver Gary Jennings also won't play in what would have been his collegiate finale, though his decision was because of injury - a high ankle sprain has nagged him for the better part of two months. He would like to play in the East-West Shrine Game next month.
Syracuse will be without defensive end Alton Robinson and defensive tackle McKinley Williams, with the team saying both cited personal reasons in deciding to not make the trip to Orlando. The Orange are apparently hoping both will remain in good standing for what would be their senior seasons in 2019. "Those guys have got some personal things they want to take care of, we'll allow them to take care of it and we'll try to do the best we can to win this one without them," Babers said. Robinson was a second-team All-ACC player this season.
GETTING TO 10
Syracuse has an opportunity for its first 10-win season since 2001, though Babers cautioned against thinking that this game will be the sole determining factor in deciding how good this year was for the Orange. "We've already had an outstanding season. We've already had a breakout season," Babers said. Syracuse was picked to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division entering the year, and placed second.
This is the 61st meeting between Syracuse and West Virginia, the former Big East rivals who haven't faced off since the Orange won the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl.
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Updated December 27, 2018