ORLANDO, Fla. – Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray was like a video game character come to life against West Virginia. But Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey ended up with the individual play against the Mountaineers that looked more like it belonged on a pixelated field than a real one.
To be specific, it looked like something from the old Nintendo game Tecmo Bowl, which allowed quarterbacks to still heave the ball downfield no matter how far backwards they scrambled.
On a first down from the West Virginia 47, Dungey took a shotgun snap and began his retreat. He was quickly met by West Virginia defensive lineman Ezekiel Rose, who flushed Dungey out of the pocket. The quarterback’s only choice was to keep running away – all the way back to his own 37-yard line.
That’s where Rose and linebacker David Long finally caught up to him, forcing Dungey to heave the ball towards the nearest eligible receiver wearing orange pants. At the moment of release, it looked more like an attempt to avoid intentional grounding than an attempted completion.
“Guys thought the play was over,” Long said. “Me and Zeke were right there at the quarterback. He threw the ball up and the guy who made the play wanted it more. That’s what it came down to. That’s what it looked like.”
That guy was running back Moe Neal, who was perfectly placed some 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage to grab the throw. Neal made it past a diving Shea Campbell to escape the backfield and turn the disaster-in-progress into Orange gold.
Neal had enough of a crease to reach the first-down marker, where safety Derek Pitts tried to wipe him out with a big hit instead of wrapping up for a tackle. Pitts missed, and that was the only break Neal needed to make it inside the 5 before linebacker Jovanni Stewart finally chased him down.
As Dungey jogged down the field, the referee could be seen talking to him with a bemused expression on his face, as if to say “Did you really just do that?”
“I was trying to make a play downfield and they had some coverage and they had some pressure obvious,” Dungey said. “So I spun around. I think I might have been getting topped, the ball came out a little wobbly. I tried to muscle it to Moe and, you know, got the ball to Moe and he just made something happen and it’s just awesome to see.”
It was a backbreaker for the Mountaineers. One play later, Jarveon Howard added a 4-yard touchdown to put the Orange up 34-18.
“Those hurt a lot,” said defensive end Reese Donahue. “But sometimes things like that happen, a busted coverage and et cetera.
“You can’t blame anybody on that play. And you can’t let one play define a game. We were already down two scores and how much does that play matter in the grand scheme of things? Not much.”
Dungey was named the game’s MVP, finishing with 303 yards on 21-of-30 passing.