clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Syracuse Orange: Five Things Learned

The Chips got squeezed by the Orange in the Carrier Dome.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Central Michigan Chippewas will not achieve a 3-0 start to the season for the fifteenth year in a row, as they fall to 2-1 (0-0 MAC) after a painful loss to the Syracuse Orange.

Painful is the operative word in the previous sentence, as the Chippewas gave up 31 unanswered points over two and a half quarters of play to lose on the road 41-17.

It was certainly a crash back to reality for the Chippewas after a game vs. Kansas where they looked nearly unstoppable on offense, exploding for 45 points. Many of the problems exhibited against Rhode Island came back to the fore in this game and the coaching staff will have to reassess their roster once again after a performance that could best be described as “fading down the stretch.”

Here are a few of the takeaways from Saturday’s game:

The offensive line was fully exposed.

The offensive line was already under construction in the week prior to this tilt with Syracuse, as the right side of the line saw some reshuffling due to a poor performance against Rhode Island.

CMU’s problems looked largely to be resolved last week, but after Saturday’s game, the results from the Kansas game look more like a symptom of success than a cause.

Syracuse adjusted wonderfully to force the offensive line on its heels and there were no solutions, as they allowed five tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries. One positive light for the offensive line is they didn’t allow any sacks despite all that pressure, but that’s not a great silver lining to fall back on when the quarterback suffered late hits in the second half.

This unit isn’t very deep and have a converted tight end weighing 245 lbs. on the two deep. They cannot afford to lose any of their starters right now.

Injuries have really hurt the CMU offense.

When you lose three of your top five returning receivers, your offense is definitely going to suffer and that was the case on Saturday, as CMU struggled to move the ball at vital points in the game.

Cameron Cole was CMU’s leading receiver, but 56 of his 75 yards came on one long reception for a touchdown to bring the Chips to 17-10 in the game. The rest of the unit wasn’t much better, with running back Jonathan Ward finishing second with 66 receiving yards and a score.

The connection just wasn’t there between Shane Morris and this motley crew of receivers, as there were 23 incompletions on the day, with a lot of those incolmpletions being drops. A Cameron Cole drop turned Syracuse pick-six is definitely a notable play to show this reality.

The already suffering unit somehow managed even more losses on Saturday, as oft-injured Eric Cooper left with an eye injury mid-way through the game and the Chippewa coaching staff burned a redshirt for prospect receiver JaCorey Sullivan to try and shore up the corps. (Sullivan finished with no stats.)

The rushing game wasn’t much better, as Kummehnu Gwilly (44 yards on six carries) finished as the game’s leading rusher in garbage time. Ward led in carries with 10, but only managed 33 yards, showing himself to be abetter receiving option. Devon Spading strugled to get going too, finishing with 23 yards on 7 carries.

The Chips will have to find ways to get players to step up and fill in significant shoes while Willis and Conklin are still out with injury. If they can’t figure that out quickly, it could well be a lost season.

The defense showed it could be beaten.

Really, all that needs to be written here is “333 yards, 17 points allowed in the third quarter” here and that would suffice.

Alas, we have to analyze exactly how bad the beating was. Because it was bad.

The Chippewas gave up 579 yards of offense, including 300 on the ground to a Syracuse team that up until Saturday had trouble deciding between a converted defensive tackle and an unproven underclassman at running back. The Chips allowed quarterback Eric Dungey to be the leading rusher, as he sliced the CMU defense apart for 105 yards on 11 carries, including a 74-yard touchdown run.

Although CMU managed to keep up decent coverage and limit Dungey’s options largely to Steve Ishmael and Sean Riley, Dungey still finished with a 8-yard per pass average and snuck in two touchdowns as well to seldom-targeted Dontae Strickland and Ravion Pierce. Ishmael (17.4 yards per reception) and Riley (20.5 yards per reception) burned the Chips DB’s early and often.

CMU did manage to collect an interception in the first half and had kept the Orange realtively in check on the afternoon (Dungey finished 19-of-35 passing on the day) but offensive woes starting late in the second quarter on a pick-six dug a hole that wasn’t easy to get out of.

There were no real adjustments made after the half and it cost CMU.

As mentioned earlier, Syracuse made some brilliant halftime adjustments to force the issue against the Chippewas and it worked for them, as they used the momentum from the last-minute pick-six to sustain what ultimately proved to be a shutdown defensive performance.

CMU didn’t really change their gameplan coming out of the half and it showed, as the Chips continued to favor screen passes and the quick passing game despite Syracuse showing blitz every other play. One understands the need to stick to the books, especially in the first year under new offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky, but at the same time, a concerted effort could have been made to try and buy some time.

The defense looked gassed as well and Syracuse took advantage, burning the Chips on the ground. They continues to expect the pass, which is a fair expectation given the Orange’s Air Raid offense, but still. You have to give your team the best chance to win.

Coaches will have to go back to the drawing board.

With major losses on the offense, the coaching staff will have to figure out how to open up the offense to give them more of a chance. If it means benching a few starters to mix up the dyumanic prior to a game against Miami, then so be it.

One position that could see some change is running back, where Jonathan Ward has shown he has the skill to be the starter. He’s gotten more carries than Spalding over the last two weeks and more touchdowns as well, so coaches clearly think they have something there. The offesnive line could also see more adjustments, as they continue to try and find something that fits.

Morris, for now, is the best fit for the Chippewa offense and likley won’t be benched in either of the next two games. That said, don’t be surprised if Tony Poljan gets some looks. The two have been available for media interviews as recently as this week and the two-deep depth chart still states QB1 as a “or” option.

Perhaps a different wrinkle in the offensive scheme could make up for a loss of talent in the receiving corps. Something, anything that could get the Chips going back in the right direction. The schedule gets a lot tougher over the next three weeks and they’ll need every advantage they can get.