Photo courtesy Rich Barnes | USA Today Sports
The injury narrative that's plagued Central Michigan's offense after three games has put the fear of whether the same will occur on the other side of the ball.
Right now, two days after the 41-17 non-conference loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, there's nothing signifiant health wise reported on defense.
Junior linebacker Alex Briones, who made a one-handed interception the possession after CMU's opening touchdown in the first quarter, did leave the game early with an apparent left arm injury.
He did come back, however, at the beginning of the second half.
It's the second straight game that a linebacker for the Chippewas had a false scare in terms of long-term impact. Junior Malik Fountain didn't see the finish of last week's win over Kansas, assisted off with 10 minutes left of the fourth quarter.
Fountain started Saturday and recorded six tackles, tying with cornerbacks Amari Coleman and Sean Bunting. Mike Danna led the team with 10 tackles, including one for a loss.
That's not to take away Central Michigan's 579 yards of offense allowed to quarterback Eric Dungey and the Syracuse offense.
Dungey, the junior duo-threat, had the most carries (11) and yards (105) of any Orange rusher, even scoring a touchdown from one-yard out early in the third quarter.
"I think [Eric Dungey] is a great quarterback for that offense because of his ability to move his legs; we saw that late in the game," said CMU head coach John Bonamego. "He’s a tremendous competitor and they’ve got a lot of good talented young receivers."
Dungey also threw for 279 yards, two touchdowns and completed 19 of his 35 passes.
His first came with 5:20 left in the second quarter, finding junior Dontae Strickland for the 18-yard reception to tie the score at 17. The scoring drive lasted six plays for 32, set up by a 64-yard kickoff return by Sean Riley.
The second interception committed by Morris set another SU's 24-17 lead with two minutes before halftime. A 44-yard pass from Dungey to sophomore Sean Riley was the play before Strickland scored from nine-yards out.
The two teams combined for five turnovers by halftime. Briones' interceptions upped CMU's total this season to nine, enough for most in the country.
"We still have a lot of football in front of us," Bonamego said. "We’ve just got to go back to work tomorrow — everybody, myself, coaches, players — and look at this objectively, take things to heart, accept the coaching, take the criticism, make the corrections and just go out and try to be a better football team next week."
Defensive end Joe Ostman, who did not have a single tackle, said after the game CMU has been in this situation before, as recent as last season, where 14 points was the difference of a road defeat at Virginia.
The Chippewas head back to Kelly/Shorts Stadium next week to begin league play Sept. 23, hosting MAC East Division foe Miami (OH). The RedHawks started the 2016 year 0-6 but won their final six games to claim bowl eligibility.
That includes Central Michigan this past November by a 20-point margin at Yager Stadium in Oxford.
"Adversity is going to come," Ostman said. "Whether we’re winning or we’re losing, we have to stay together as a team. We have to come back next week, make the corrections and come out ready to play a huge game next week."
Central Michigan has never won back-to-back games against Power 5 teams.