This was not the plan for the 2017 SU football team. The plan was to start the season 3-1 with three easy wins to start the season and a voluntary pummeling from LSU in Week 4. Then, the Orange would hope to scrape together three wins in the ACC to make its first bowl game since 2014. The bowl game is still attainable, but the Orange can’t afford any more slip-ups if it wants to play a 13th game in December (or January… why not be optimistic?). There’s no point in dwelling on past losses now, though, so as the Orange turns to Central Michigan this Saturday, so does the Fizz.
Central Michigan and Syracuse last faced off in 2015 when the Chippewas visited the Carrier Dome to face a then 2-0 Orange squad. The Orange won the game and improved to 3-0 for the first time in 24 years, but it was in overtime and wasn’t the best showing for the squad. Freshman Eric Dungey threw just six passes before leaving with an injury (the first of many times that would happen), and not a single Orange rusher or receiver amassed 100 yards from scrimmage. Syracuse didn’t battle off CMU as much as the Chippewas failed to take advantage of Orange mistakes.
Last season, Central Michigan finished 6-7 with a loss in the Miami Beach Bowl to end the season. Quarterback Cooper Rush led the Chippewas with over 3500 yards passing and 23 touchdowns. CMU gave up 30 points per game and went 3-5 in the MAC.
Cooper Rush is now gone, and replacing him under center is Michigan transfer Shane Morris. He threw four passes in 2016, and the lack of experience showed in CMU’s first game as Morris almost blew a game to Rhode Island (who SU beat by 47 in 2015). Central Michigan won 30-27 in Week One thanks to the running game. Jonathan Ward and Devon Spalding (who had 185 yards from scrimmage in CMU’s 2015 matchup with Syracuse) split carries. Spalding ran for 70 yards and a touchdown, while Ward racked up 147 yards and a score of his own.
Last week, Central Michigan visited Kansas and the passing game took over in a 45-27 win. Morris entered the spotlight with 467 passing yards and five touchdowns. Mark Chapman hauled in three receiving touchdowns and 168 yards in his eight catches, while Corey Willis added 140 receiving yards and a touchdown. The point is, CMU can move the ball on the ground and through the air, and its proven that over the course of the first two weeks.
Players to Watch
QB Shane Morris – Morris rocked the Kansas secondary last week, which rightfully scares SU fans. The Orange defensive backs need to step up Saturday to avoid another stat sheet-stuffing day from the former Wolverine.
RB Jonathan Ward – Devon Spalding played well against SU in 2015 and is splitting carries with Ward right down the middle, but Ward has taken advantage of the chances. He is averaging 6.9 yards per carry in the first two games for the Chippewas.
WR Mark Chapman – Corey Willis is back for CMU this season after leading the Chippewa receivers last year, but Chapman has been the standout through two games. He already has 256 receiving yards on just 13 catches this season, and his two red-zone touchdowns last week indicate he may be Morris’ favorite target.
CB Josh Cox – The Central Michigan defense has given up 27 points in each of its first two games, but that doesn’t mean the Chippewas haven’t been causing havoc on that side of the ball. Cox already has three interceptions, part of the eight CMU has as a team.
LB Alex Briones – Briones leads Central Michigan with 21 tackles. He is the only member of the defense with double-digit tackles in both of the first two games of the season.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson