Football

What we learned from Syracuse’s 30-23 loss to Middle Tennessee State

Colin Davy | Staff Photographer

Syracuse's offense played sluggish on Sunday night despite running nearly 30 plays more than Middle Tennessee State.

Syracuse (1-1) fell to Middle Tennessee State (1-1), 30-23, on Saturday in the Carrier Dome. The Orange led by four at the break but gave up three touchdowns in the second half, two on players longer than 25 yards, while the offense failed to capitalize on its chances.

Here’s what we learned from the game.

Planning ahead

The prevailing storyline heading into this game was the return of former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer, now the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State.

Shafer was fired before the last game of his third season as SU’s coach. Leading up to the game, he told the media that this was just another game. But MTSU linebacker D.J. Sanders shared that Shafer told the defense that they’d all be best friends for life if they beat Syracuse.

After the game, Shafer was seen with a victory cigar in mouth. He said that he bought it and saved it when the game was scheduled months ago. Shafer did take time to reminisce on his time in Syracuse, though,

“It was bittersweet in a lot of ways,” Shafer said. “I loved it here.”

Taking a toll

After the game, SU head coach Dino Babers said that he thought the players weren’t ready for the “emotional rollercoaster” of Shafer returning. He initially put the blame on himself, saying that the team wasn’t prepared for the game because the buzz around Shafer’s return started early in the week. He also told the media that, “you guys had a lot to do with that, too.”

Some players, like wide receivers Ervin Philips and Steve Ishmael, said that they didn’t think it affected them. Other players thought it did.

“Honestly, thinking about Shafe was just something that people just let get to their head, I would believe,” linebacker Parris Bennett said. “I thought about Shafe more than I would like to. It was just weird, something that I think a lot of hadn’t experienced before, playing an old coach. It was definitely just a different experience.”

Left in the tank

While Syracuse’s offense struggled early in the game, the defense managed to mostly lock down Middle Tennessee State. The unit forced three turnovers in the first half and limited the Blue Raiders to just one touchdown.

Things changed in the second half as MTSU racked up 220 yards of total offense and scored another three touchdowns. The Orange appeared to look tired on the field.

But SU said that fatigue wasn’t a factor after the game. Babers said to look at the play differential — MTSU ran 69 plays to SU’s 93 — and said, “I don’t think the tired thing is going to hold up at all.”

Safety Jordan Martin also said that he thought the team was lacking on execution and refuted claims of the team being tired.

“No, we weren’t fatigued at all,” Martin said. “Our offense gives us a good look during the week, they definitely an up-tempo offense so we were well prepared.”

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