A quick take on Syracuse’s 30-27 overtime win over Central Michigan on Saturday to move the Orange to 3-0 on the season, the first time that SU has started 3-0 since 1991:
WHAT HAPPENED: Jordan Fredericks’ four-yard plunge into the endzone on an option in overtime spared Syracuse from an embarrassing loss to a MAC opponent. The Orange looked poised to break open the game at the end of the first half, with the offense moving the ball with ease with true freshman QB Eric Dungey under center. But a head shot from Mitch Stanitzek near the end of the half sent Dungey to the locker room for good with an “upper body injury” and Syracuse struggled to move the ball after that. Central Michigan dominated possession time in the second half, and tied the game with seven seconds left in regulation on a heave from Cooper Rush to tight end Ben McCord for a 27-yard touchdown. But the Orange was able to limit the Chippewas to a field goal in the first drive of overtime, which set up the game winning drive, engineered by walk-on quarterback Zack Mahoney, who played most of the key snaps over Austin Wilson.
ANALYSIS: Scott Shafer and company (deservedly) drew the ire of Syracuse fans at the end of regulation, choosing to call timeout with Central Michigan out of timeouts, and scrambling to call a play with 15 seconds left. The timeout allowed CMU to gather themselves for the game-tying play. Of greater concern will be Dungey, who took a hard shot to the head from Stanizek, and appeared to bend backward while he was being dragged down from behind. His absence was certainly felt, with the Orange going without a first down the entire second half. It wasn’t until SU’s overtime drive that it was able to move the ball more than 10 yards. If Dungey isn’t able to play next week, does Syracuse consider playing AJ Long?
HERO: Dungey was brilliant when he was in the game, throwing for 93 yards and a touchdown, and executing the option (sometimes the triple option) to perfection, rushing four times for 50 yards and a score. Defensive end Ron Thompson was critical to the SU defense, which included a third down play in overtime where he saved a touchdown. He finished with five tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. Rush (37/51, 430 and two TDs) was able to pick apart the SU defense through the air, consistently finding receivers underneath. His running back, Devon Spalding and McCord each hauled in 10 receptions for a combined 249 yards.
ZERO: Certainly Stanitzek has to top the list with a cheap shot that ended Dungey’s afternoon and resulted in an ejection. As mentioned above, Shafer made (at best) a curious timeout call at the end of regulation. Syracuse should also be concerned about its quarterback situation now, with Mahoney playing all the major snaps down the stretch over Wilson. While Wilson fired a touchdown pass in the first half, he also threw a momentum killing pick immediately after the Syracuse defense forced a turnover.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse hosts No. 13 LSU next Saturday, Sept. 26 for a noon kickoff, televised on either ESPN or ABC.