A season that started with much promise took a step backwards Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt finished with 267 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Orange handed CMU a 40-3 loss before 25,531.
“Went from the penthouse to the outhouse pretty quick,” CMU coach Dan Enos said. “It was humbling today – that was a good football team and beat us in all three phases, really. We have to move forward from here. “
It was the first loss for CMU (2-1), which dominated Purdue a week ago in posting a 38-17 road victory. The Chippewas play at Kansas next week.
The Chippewas played Saturday without their top two offensive threats, running back Thomas Rawls and wide receiver Titus Davis.
Rawls, who had rushed for 276 yards in CMU’s first two games, was held out against the Orange as the university reviews an issue that came to its attention on Friday.
“We weren’t efficient running it,” Enos said. “We weren’t consistent – there weren’t enough consistent plays. We had three-, four-yard plays. We weren’t very good at pass protection, quarterback or wideout. That’s a bad combination. A lot of it had to do with the way (Syracuse) played. I thought they played very well.”
Davis, who was on the Biletnifkoff Award Watch List, was injured in the season-opening 20-16 win over Chattanooga and is listed as day-to-day.
CMU entered the game averaging 154.5 yards rushing per game, but was held to 34. Chippewa quarterback Cooper Rush was 18-for-34 passing for 183 yards. He was sacked five times and was under heavy pressure for much of the game.
“They blitzed 60 to 70 percent of the snaps,” Enos said. “It’s feast or famine – it was feast for them.”
The dangerous Hunt completed 20-of-30 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown, and he rushed for 92 yards on 13 attempts. His three rushing TDs are a career high, and his 92 yards on the ground matched his career best.
Hunt’s success on the ground didn’t come as a surprise, Enos said, but the zip he showed in the passing game did.
“I thought threw it well,” Enos said. “I think that was the big difference. He made a couple plays in running the ball, but his ability to make some of those throws on third down, especially, that’s the one thing you haven’t seen him do over the course of time. He did that today and I have to give him credit.”
CMU moved the ball effectively on its first possession, which ended on Brian Eavey’s 26-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
But it was all Syracuse after that. Ryan Nortan answered with a 23-yard field goal to tie it, then the Orange seized the lead on Marqez Hodge’s 36-yard fumble recovery for touchdown with 10 minutes, 43 seconds left in the first half.
The ball was jarred loose from Rush, who was scrambling in the backfield.
“He has to learn to just take the sack sometimes,” said Enos, who played quarterback at Michigan State. “I played the position from fifth grade through college – it’s tough to teach guys to do that because of their competitive nature. They want to continue make a play and not go down.
“As a coach, you don’t want to kill their spirit. They have to be smart and learn how to do it. There’s a fine line between being smart and being a playmaker. I think Cooper still has to figure that out where he’s at this that. I thought that was a huge play – it could have been 10-3 at halftime. (Then) it’s a different ball game.”
Hunt hit Brisly Estime with a 4-yard TD pass with under 2 minutes left in the half to make it 17-3 at the break. The Orange recorded a safety on CMU’s first possession of the second half when Rush, under heavy pressure from Cameron Lynch, was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone.
Hunt scored on three short runs as the Orange won going away.
Syracuse finished with 464 yards in toal offense to CMU’s 217, and had 25 first downs to the Chippewas’ 14. Syracuse outrushed the Chippewas, 289-34.