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Virginia Tech blows chance to grab hold of ACC Coastal with upset loss to Syracuse

Syracuse’s first conference win of the Dino Babers era was a good one.

The Orange welcomed ACC Coastal-leading Virginia Tech to the Carrier Dome on Saturday and upset the 17th-ranked Hokies, 31-17. Behind a huge performance from quarterback Eric Dungey, the Orange gashed the Hokies for 561 yards of offense. Dungey threw for 311 yards and a touchdown while adding 106 yards and a score on the ground in the win.

Syracuse led for most of the afternoon. Dungey threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to Ervin Phillips on the team’s first drive, and by halftime, the Orange and its much-maligned defense had held the Hokies to just three points to take a 17-3 lead at the break.

Tech finally got things going in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 17-9 (missed extra point) when Jerod Evans found Isaiah Ford for a 12-yard score.

Syracuse QB Eric Dungey combined for 417 yards of offense in a win over Virginia Tech. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

The young Orange offense left points on the field on its next two drives, throwing an interception and missing a field goal, leaving the door open for the Hokies to tie things up. That’s just what they did early in the fourth when Evans found Bucky Hodges for a 10-yard score and then converted on a two-point conversion try.

Impressively, the Syracuse responded to the score with its best drive of the day. The Orange marched 75 yards in 17 plays and regained the lead on a one-yard plunge from Dungey. That ended up being the deciding score. The Orange then added an insurance score to seal the victory.

The win is a big morale booster for the Orange, which improved to 3-4 on the year. Just check out this scene in the postgame locker room:

While the victory is a big win for the Syracuse program, it could be one Tech looks back on with regret later in the year. The Hokies had a chance to sit atop the Coastal with a 3-0 conference record. The loss especially stings when coupled with North Carolina’s upset of No. 16 Miami on the road.

The Tar Heels, considered by many to be the division favorite entering the season, are now firmly back in the race following the 20-13 road win. UNC jumped out to a 20-3 halftime lead but needed a late strip sack from Malik Carney on Miami QB Brad Kaaya to seal the win in the final minutes.

After starting 4-0, Miami now has two ACC losses and has a lot of work to do to reach the ACC title game.

We can’t forget about Pitt, either. The Panthers have won three in a row over Marshall, Georgia Tech and Virginia and are tied atop the division standings with Virginia Tech and North Carolina with one conference loss apiece.

With all that said, Virginia Tech still controls its own destiny despite Saturday’s outcome. If the Hokies win out, they will win the division. They have a quick turnaround, too, with a Thursday night game at Miami just five days away.

Then again, it’s only Week 7. A ton can still happen in the weeks ahead.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!