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Saturday, Sep 09, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Football Falls to Middle Tennessee State in Scott Shafer Return

By Matthew Wieselthier

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It seemed like every time the Syracuse offense got something going, Middle Tennessee State would immediately respond. That was capitalized as wide receiver Shane Tucker hurdled a defender to reach the end zone to make the game 30-23 with 6:46 left in the fourth quarter.

After that, it was the Orange’s worst nightmare: its former head coach’s defense shutting down the new look Syracuse offense.

The final nail in the coffin: Eric Dungey being hit as he threw over the middle, getting intercepted by Reed Blankenship and ending any hope of an Orange comeback.

“If you are a good coach and you have a lot of knowledge about the personnel, it’s an advantage,” said Babers, who has fallen to 1-1 for the second straight season. “When you know a lot about the other team and you’re not guessing about it, it’s a huge advantage.”

Scott Shafer could handle any trick that Dino Babers threw at him, as Syracuse was only able to muster 23 points in the loss.

But for Babers, the main thing was not Shafer’s knowledge of the team, but the fact that his return provided an emotional roller coaster for his squad.

“It was going to be that type of game, it was going to be an emotional game,” said Babers, who noted that he played in similar games in former coaching jobs. “I didn’t feel that they handled it very well and that’s my fault.”

For the players, it was tough to ignore the man who brought them to Syracuse being on the other side of the field.

“Honestly, thinking about Shafer, people just let it get to their head,” said linebacker Paris Bennett, who played under Shafer for two seasons. “I thought about Shafer more than I would’ve liked to. It’s just weird. It’s something not many of us have experienced before, playing against an old coach.”

That old coach was able to pull out some new tricks as well, which hurt the Orange offense early in the game.

“Middle Tennessee did a great job coming with pressure and disguising their looks with a lot of different stuff we hadn’t seen before,” said quarterback Eric Dungey, who was 26 for 42 on the day. “Coach Shafer is a genius and he always came up with something.”

Now Syracuse must regroup quickly as Central Michigan comes to the Carrier Dome next weekend. But for head coach Dino Babers, it is all about the response his team gives next week.

“What matters is kids crying and not crying, winning and not winning. I’m looking in my men’s eyes and wondering what we will do with a loss like this.”