SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Jordan Fredericks rushed for 73 yards on 11 carries, including the game winning 4-yard touchdown run in overtime, to help Syracuse escape with a 30-27 victory over Central Michigan on Saturday.
Syracuse led almost the entire way and held a 24-10 lead at halftime. But the Chippewas battled back late to force overtime on a Cooper Rush 27-yard touchdown pass to Ben McCord with seven seconds remaining in regulation, capping off a 12-play, 90-yard drive that took just 2:10.
“It’s like you hit a wall, almost, and you’re trying to climb up it, you’re trying to get it around it, but you can’t because it’s a never-ending wall,” Fredericks said about Syracuse’s second-half woes. “You just have to keep doing what you’ve got to do.”
“For me, everything happens for a reason,” Fredericks added. “So for me, scoring that winning touchdown like that and giving the crowd a show, that’s how it is.”
Syracuse quarterback Zach Mahoney made a key play in overtime when he connected on a 13-yard pass to tight end Kendall Moore on third-and-5 from 20.
“I think coach (offensive coordinator Tim Lester) prepares us every week so if your number is called you’ve got to be able to play,” Mahoney said. “I think Austin (Wilson) and I both felt confident going into the game and prepared when Eric (Dungey) went out.”
Brian Eavey kicked a 20-yard field goal for Central Michigan on its first overtime possession after Syracuse held on 3rd and goal at the 1-yard line.
Three quarterbacks combined for 161 passing yards and two touchdowns for the Orange, with Dungy leading the way with 93.
Central Michigan was led by Rush’s 430 yards passing and McCord’s 147 yards receiving on 10 receptions.
Syracuse, which improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1991 and only the fifth time in the last 50 years, lost Dungey to an apparent head injury in the second quarter and rotated third- and fourth-string quarterbacks Wilson and Mahoney the rest of the game. “We had to adjust to the elements and we found a way,” Shafer said. “We’re 3-0, and it’s been 24 years since Syracuse has been 3-0. Let’s give these kids credit because we played some guys we didn’t expect to play.”
Dungey was Syracuse’s second-string quarterback. Starter Terrel Hunt injured his Achilles in the first game and is out for the season.
Midway through the second quarter, Dungey was speared by Central Michigan linebacker Mitch Stanitzek on a helmet-to-helmet hit. Neither Dungey nor Stanitzek returned to the game as Stanitzek was ejected.
“Mitch is an aggressive guy, but he is not a dirty player,” Central Michigan coach John Bonamego said. “That’s not where he was aiming for. Things like that happen so fast; they happen in a millisecond. Once you’ve committed yourself, you can’t pull back. We would want it called the same way if it was against us, and I credit the officials for making the right call.”
Central Michigan scored the game’s first points on an Eavey 34-yard field goal that made it 3-0.
Syracuse then siezed control for the rest of the half. Before leaving, Dungey led the Orange to scores on three of his four drives. After his injury, Wilson found Jamal Custis on a 7-yard scoring strike end of the second quarter.
Trailing 24-10 at the half, the Chippewas pulled within a touchdown with an eight-play, 94-yard drive that included three third-down conversions. Running back Devon Spalding capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. “They were confident coming into the locker room (at halftime) being down two scores,” Bonamego said. “I’m really proud of the way they kept competing, hung in there, and how they kept chipping away at the lead.”
Early in the fourth quarter, the Orange defense came up with two key turnovers, a Parris Bennett fumble recovery and a Zaire Franklin interception, that thwarted Central Michigan drives and preserved their 24-17 lead.
Both teams face challenges next week. Syracuse will host No. 13 LSU, while Central Michigan will play at No. 4 Michigan State.