Syracuse coach Dino Babers ready to get back to work
Syracuse coach Dino Babers spoke in low tones. His voice was noticeably hoarse in the aftermath of one memorable night.
“I’m just kind of going through the motions,” Babers said Monday at his weekly press conference, back in town after a whirlwind round of recruiting in the New York City metro area.
A year ago, in his first season at Syracuse, Babers coached the Orange to an upset of No. 17 Virginia Tech at home. He directed Syracuse to a stunner of greater magnitude on Friday night — a 27-24 victory over Clemson.
The loss dropped the Tigers (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) to No. 7 this week and gave the Orange a jolt of confidence as they moved closer to becoming bowl-eligible.
“When you play on Friday night, everyone sees you. It’s a big moment,” Babers said. “As the millennials were saying, that’s a trending moment. Everyone’s watching, social media is buzzing, everybody knows what’s going on. It’s big.”
Both victories came inside the Carrier Dome, the latter prompting hundreds in the crowd of 42,475 to gather at midfield with Babers and his players to soak in a rare moment. The Orange had never beaten the second-ranked team in the nation and only twice before had defeated the defending national champion.
“It will be something that they’ll be able to share with (family members),” said Babers, who gave another one of his riveting postgame speeches.
The victory puts Syracuse (4-3, 2-1) in the uncustomary spot of third place in the Atlantic Division of the ACC, ahead of Florida State, Wake Forest, Louisville and Boston College.
The Orange didn’t land any votes in this week’s AP Top 25 , but a victory on Saturday at No. 8 Miami (5-0, 3-0) likely would attract even more attention. Syracuse hasn’t been ranked since finishing at No. 14 in January 2001.
“Now the bar is raised again, and game on,” Babers said.
Quarterback Eric Dungey, wideout Erv Philips, and linebacker Parris Bennett were honored Monday by the conference for their roles in the upset. Syracuse never trailed in the game, but Clemson pushed hard for the road win despite losing starting quarterback Kelly Bryant just before halftime to an apparent concussion. The Tigers tied the game four times before Cole Murphy’s 30-yard field goal won it with 6:04 to play.
“The way the momentum kept changing, how we’d go ahead and they’d come back, we’d go ahead and they’d come back, we’d go ahead and they’d come back, but the guys never put their heads down,” Babers said. “They never had any doubts.
“When everybody believes, they don’t care who gets the credit, there’s an opportunity for great things to happen,” Babers added. “That’s the part I’m most proud of, how they kept fighting back, because that team’s a champion, a national champion. They’re not going to give up.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose Tigers embarrassed Syracuse 54-0 last year in Death Valley, was effusive in his praise. He congratulated Babers at midfield and later ventured into the Orange locker room to speak with the players, a gesture that caught the Orange by surprise.
“It was just one of those games where you wanted to right a wrong,” Babers said. “We just felt we were better than 54-0.”