Football

Syracuse gets beat by former head coach Scott Shafer in 30-23 Middle Tennessee State victory

Colin Davy | Staff Photographer

Offensive inconsistency keyed by Scott Shafer's defense doomed Syracuse on Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey lofted a pass down the left sideline. Ervin Philips, his wide receiver, ran under its projected path. But the pass never arrived.

Middle Tennessee State’s Reed Blankenship snagged the ball out of midair with a diving catch, sealing the Orange’s defeat, 30-23, on Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome.

SU later received the ball back with just under three minutes to go in the fourth quarter and one timeout, but the Orange turned the ball over on downs when a Dungey completion to receiver Steve Ishmael came up short.

The Syracuse defense, with three first-half takeaways, gave the offense every opportunity to build a comfortable lead. But Dungey and Co. could not do so against former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer, now MTSU’s defensive coordinator. He brought many of SU’s players to this school, and on Saturday he took them down.

The seriousness of Syracuse’s situation became real late in the third quarter, when Orange lost the lead it had owned since 12 minutes into the game.

On third down, fans roared as they had all afternoon in support of Syracuse’s defense on third down. Then, as he has done his entire career, Middle Tennessee’s Richie James caught a pass. The Carrier Dome fell quiet as he flew over the middle of the field. It went silent when James crossed the goal line for a game-tying 28-yard touchdown.

Syracuse had the chance to answer. It had so many chances to answer. On the next drive, SU drove into field goal range. Cole Murphy missed from 40 yards.

On the ensuing MTSU possession, Ty Lee, MTSU’s starting Y receiver, ran a 48-yard streak through the seam of Syracuse’s secondary. He cooked SU corner Chris Fredrick and MTSU suddenly led by seven. Then, with 11 minutes left, Dungey hit Syracuse fans with a shot of hope. He tucked the ball on a designed run and plugged through the middle of the field 29 yards for the touchdown. Murphy added the extra point.

But again MTSU replied. Running back Shane Tucker capped a 10-play drive by leaping over Syracuse’s Juwan Dowels and into the endzone. The Orange defense that bothered MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill early on couldn’t apply the same kind of pressure. Stockstill navigated successfully down the field with the newfound comfort in the pocket.

Even after Dungey’s late interception, Syracuse forced a punt and got one more opportunity to tie the game. But a fourth and 15 completion with less than a minute left went for only 14 yards.

Shafer stopped Syracuse.

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