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Final score: Syracuse 41, Central Michigan 17

Defense and the run game leads the way, which is definitely not surprising in any way...

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We were quite concerned about the outcome of this game all week. And despite a rough first quarter, the Syracuse Orange (2-1, 0-0) coasted to a strong 41-17 victory over the Central Michigan Chippewas (2-1, 0-0) at the Carrier Dome.

The game began with a mistake-filled 10-10 first quarter, featuring turnovers for both teams and a disjointed offensive gameplan. But things started settling down for Syracuse in the second, due largely to the defense and a stronger-than-normal rushing attack.

SU ran for nearly 300 yards on the game, including three individual rushes over 40 yards. Eric Dungey led the way (again) with 105 yards (including 74 on one carry). Moe Neal had his own 71-yard dash, and Sean Riley picked up 41 on his own jet sweep.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, the Orange appears to apply heavy pressure on CMU quarterback Shane Morris throughout, and were assisted by some strong play from the back-seven all day. Aside from a couple lapses, the secondary played the ball well and managed two picks. Evan Foster took one of those to the house for SU’s first touchdown of the day. The Orange also recovered a fumble late.

Even with the rushing and defense focus, Syracuse still passed the ball plenty. Dungey threw for 279 yards on the day, passing both Troy Nunes and RJ Anderson on the school’s all-time passing list in the process. He was 19-of-35, with two touchdowns and an tipped-ball interception. Several of those incompletions were either drops or slight overthrows. SU did try the deep ball far more in this one vs. previous games.

Steve Ishmael caught eight passes for 139 yards, and would’ve had a touchdown if not for a fumble on a 29-yarder. He was stopped at the one on another catch before Dungey punched it in on the next play.

Riley was the team’s second-leading receiver, with four catches for 82 yards, and showed an ability to maybe be the team’s new deep threat. His two early kick returns for 98 yards also changed the field position game, as Central Michigan tried to actively avoid him for the remainder of the contest.

More recap to come, but this was a needed and reassuring win for the Orange. There are questions to be asked about the play-calling approach in the first quarter. But overall, Syracuse returned the big-play aspects of this attack, maintained pace and looked impressive against a quality Chippewas squad.

Enjoy the post-game, and G’ORANGE!