It is amazing that Syracuse fans are so quick to turn on Zack Mahoney and conclude that he is incapable of playing QB for Syracuse. On what basis can any Syracuse fan make that statement?
Mahoney’s first game experience came against Central Michigan, where Mahoney ultimately led Syracuse to the overtime win in his first game action. While offensive coordinator Tim Lester showed little confidence in him in regulation, overtime went well for the Orange–resulting in a victory. In his next outing, all Mahoney did was overcome a terrible start to keep Syracuse competitive against then-#2 Louisiana State. In his next outing, Mahoney kept Syracuse competitive against #1 Clemson. While the passing was not good, Mahoney’s legs kept Syracuse close.
Between the LSU and Clemson games, Eric Dungey was given five games at QB for Syracuse. Syracuse lost all five games–South Florida, Virginia, Pitt, Florida State, and Louisville. All good opponents, but certainly not LSU or Clemson.
In the final two games, Mahoney and the Orange were defeated soundly by North Carolina State on the road, which ultimately was the end of the Scott Shafer era. However, in the final game under Shafer, Mahoney led the Orange to the win.
The numbers are Mahoney on the season are not great. Dungey completed 59.7% of his passes, while Mahoney only completed 46.2%. However, Mahoney was 24 for 59 against LSU and Clemson, Syracuse’s two toughest opponents. This certainly helped drag down Mahoney’s numbers. Also, Mahoney did not play against Rhode Island or Wake Forest, and was only allowed to attempt 4 passes against Central Michigan (all 4 of which were completed). Three of Dungey’s four best QB rating games were against Rhode Island, Wake Forest, and Central Michigan. Dungey’s two worst games were at Florida State and Louisville. Good opponents make QBs look worse than bad opponents.
None of this is to suggest that Mahoney deserves to start over Dungey. Dungey certainly throws a better deep ball and has that certain intangible quality that you look at in a QB. The mobility is a huge plus. But the idea that Mahoney cannot be a 2nd or 3rd string QB on Syracuse moving forward is a bit absurd. Not many QBs in Syracuse history have kept the Orange competitive against top 5 opponents–even in the Dome. Mahoney did. In his first year for Syracuse, without a ton of reps before the season due to his depth chart status. Let’s not give up on the kid just yet.