QB Eric Dungey stars for Syracuse, Orange beat CMU 41-17
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Eric Dungey strolled into the postgame interview room in the bowels of the Carrier Dome, a smile on his face after an important win as Syracuse coach Dino Babers stopped and noted the entrance of his junior quarterback.
”Hey, that’s Eric Dungey right there,” Babers said. ”There were some plays where he flat saved us. He played smart quarterback football out there.”
Dungey rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown and threw for another and tailback Dontae Strickland scored twice as Syracuse beat Central Michigan 41-17 on Saturday. It was a critical victory for Syracuse (2-1), which was upset at home last week by Middle Tennessee.
”It’s fun when they’re all locked and focused,” Babers said. ”They were ready to play. As a team, we weren’t happy with what we put on the field last week.”
It had been two years almost to the day since Dungey took a violent helmet-to-helmet hit in the Carrier Dome that knocked him out of a game against Central Michigan with a concussion in only his second start for the Orange. The Chippewas, who lost that game in overtime, returned with the player that delivered the blow – defensive end Mitch Stanitzek – a prominent part of their defense.
Dungey scrambled away from Stanitzek in the second quarter with the game tied at 17 and completed a 44-yard pass to Sean Riley to set up Strickland’s 9-yard TD. That put Syracuse ahead to stay and a dominant third quarter secured the important win. The Orange outgained the Chippewas 333-60 in the period, taking control with big plays.
”Coach told us all gas, no brakes. We put it on them,” Strickland said. ”It’s an incredible comeback after last week. It’s hard to do as a team after coming back from a loss. We kind of bounced back as a team.”
Even when CMU pinned the Orange deep in their own territory, it had no effect. Moe Neal raced 71 yards up the right side and Dungey took over. He hit Steve Ishmael for 17 yards and then scored from the 1 for a 31-17 lead early in the third.
”We’ve been here before,” CMU defensive lineman Joe Ostman said. ”We have to stay together. Adversity is going to come. They beat us. I guess we’ve got to look in the mirror, get better.”
Dungey finished the surge late in the third. His 74-yard run gave the Orange a first down at the 6 and he hit tight end Ravian Pierce for a score on the next play.
”It’s just the little things,” Dungey said. ”We’re starting to come together.”
Central Michigan (2-1) was coming off a big win at Kansas. Shane Morris, a transfer from Michigan, threw for 467 yards and five touchdowns in the 45-27 win over the Jayhawks, but the Syracuse defense never let him get into a rhythm. Morris finished 22 of 45 for 279 yards with two interceptions.
”During the first half, we made some mistakes but we were still in the game,” CMU coach John Bonamego said. ”The second half you saw inability to finish drives and we really gave up three or four big plays, which really hurt us.”
The Chippewas did have their moments. They drove 91 yards in 11 plays to take a 17-10 lead midway through the second quarter, with Jonathan Ward scoring on a 17-yard screen pass.
Sean Riley, who finished with 247 all-purpose yards, returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards for the Orange, Dungey converted a fourth-and-1 run, and Strickland scored on an 18-yard catch-and-run to tie it.
Poor execution by both quarterbacks led to interceptions off deflections by each team in the first quarter and both picks were costly. Dungey was intercepted by Alex Briones and Michael Armstrong hit a 30-yard field goal to give CMU a 10-3 lead. It was the ninth interception of the season for the Chippewas, who led the nation entering the game.
Just over a minute later Evan Foster stepped in front of a Morris pass over the middle and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown for the Orange.
”I think we just stayed together as a family because we knew that people would think that we wouldn’t be able to get the job done since the game was kind of going the same way it did last week,” Foster said. ”We just kept pushing.”
The Chippewas also forced a fumble by Markenzy Pierre and Morris quickly took advantage, hitting Cameron Cole for a 56-yard touchdown down the left side.
When it was over, Dungey and Stanitzek met at midfield and shook hands.
”I’m not going to hold a grudge against him. It’s football,” Dungey said. ”I just wanted to go up and shake his hand and tell him he’s a great player.”
Central Michigan: The Chippewas have to correct their third-down problems. They converted just 3 of 16 against the Orange and now are 12 of 48, one of the worst marks in FBS as they head into Mid-American Conference play.
Syracuse: The Orange have to limit their mistakes if they hope to salvage something from the season. They’ve fumbled five times this season and lost every one.
Riley had 47 yards rushing, 82 receiving, 20 on punt returns and 98 on kickoffs as special teams play excelled.
Central Michigan hosts Miami of Ohio.
Syracuse faces its first ranked team when it travels to LSU, ranked No. 12 this week.
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