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Final score: Middle Tennessee 30, Syracuse 23


NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Remember all of those times when Scott Shafer’s Syracuse Orange teams were gashed by up-tempo or spread offenses? Well, neither does he, apparently. The former SU coach came to town as the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders’ defensive coordinator and left with a 30-23 victory.

Right out of the gate, Syracuse struggled to move the football, with negative yardage after one quarter. Keeping them in the game were some early turnovers by Middle Tennessee (three, to be exact), and SU rebounded for a 13-9 advantage at the half.

But despite what appeared to be some big strides on both sides of the ball last week, this game resembled none of what we saw in the 50-7 win over Central Connecticut State. Syracuse’s offense was under pressure throughout, as Eric Dungey was assaulted by blitzes (and at least a few late hits). He finished the game with less than 200 yards passing and another 50 or so on the ground, for a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked four times.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The run game looked slightly better with Chris Elmore getting a bigger role in short yardage, but it didn’t make up for the struggles elsewhere. Dontae Strickland and Moe Neal averaged less than three yards per carry each.

Steve Ishmael was once again the team’s leading receiver, topping 10 catches once again. However, some big drops by everyone else prevented Syracuse from being able to rack up the sorts of big plays they’re used to.

On the defensive end, things were much improved for what appeared to be a half and some change, as the Orange generated pressure, forced turnovers and seemed to swarm to the football. That all shifted as MTSU’s momentum turned mid-way through the third. Christopher Frederick and Juwan Dowels both had tough games at corner, getting burned regularly by Ty Lee and Richie James of the Blue Raiders.

This is not the end for Dino Babers, this offense or the good vibes around them, obviously. But it’s certainly a setback. And one we’ll want to discuss a bit more as we get through the rest of the weekend. I’m bummed, and so are you. Let’s just try and be nice to each other in the comments.