Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – There will be plenty for coach John Bonamego, his staff and the players to hash over in the wake of Saturday’s 41-17 loss at Syracuse.
And the work begins quickly and in earnest as the Chippewas prepare for their Mid-American Conference opener on Saturday, Sept. 23, at home against Miami (Ohio).
“We still have a lot of football in front of us,” Bonamego said after his team (2-1) lost for the first time in 2017. “We’ve just got to go back to work tomorrow – everybody, myself, coaches, players -- and really 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.”
The Chippewas hung with the Orange (2-1), who play in the ACC, for a while and held a 17-10 lead midway through the second quarter.
But two Syracuse touchdowns in the final 5 minutes, 20 seconds of the first half turned the tide. The Orange led 24-17 at the break, then scored 17 points in the third quarter to make the final period academic.
“I’m disappointed, obviously,” Bonamego said. “Felt like the first half, we made some mistakes but we were in the game. The second half, the inability to finish drives and we gave up, really, three or four big plays which really hurt us.”
Syracuse finished with 579 yards in total offense to CMU’s 382. Fourteen of Syracuse’s plays went for 15 or more yards.
Syracuse’s up-tempo no-huddle offense gave the Chippewas fits and picked up steam as the game progressed. But CMU did itself no favors with its own inability to move the ball offensively and keep the Orange offensive unit on the sidelines.
“It was there for us and I told our team no offensive call is going to be good enough to overcome dropped passes,” Bonamego said. “I had us at about five or six of those today. For us to keep drives alive, we’ve got to be more consistent in making the catches that are there.”
CMU quarterback Shane Morris completed 22-of-45 pass attempts for 279 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted twice, and one of those picks was returned for a touchdown.
Morris hit Cameron Cole for a 56-yard TD midway through the first quarter to put CMU up, 7-3, and then later connected with Jonathan Ward for a 17-yard TD. It was the first collegiate TD for Cole, a freshman from Saline.
Morris was never sacked, but frequently found himself under under heavy pressure, and the Chippewa run game became a nonfactor as CMU fell farther behind in the second half.
Two of CMU’s starting receivers, Corey Willis and Brandon Childress, missed the game with injuries.
“I think we need to help him more,” Bonamego said. “He had one bad throw on an interception, the other (interception) was a tipped ball, should have been caught, should have been a completion. The pick-six, that was in and out of our hands. We have to make those plays. If that ball’s not tipped, if it’s caught, it’s a different story going in at halftime.”
The game was played in Syracuse’s Carrier Dome and outside temperatures were in the 80s, and it felt much hotter, perhaps even sweltering, on the field for the players.
CMU senior defensive end Joe Ostman admitted that it was warm on the field, but the heat did not play a role in the game.
“It definitely was hot in there, but nothing too overwhelming,” he said. “I don’t think that made a difference in the game. They’re (Syracuse) playing under the same circumstances. I think we’re in great shape. We’ve got to get lined up and be where we’re supposed to be and make plays when they present themselves.”
Ostman, a captain, echoed Bonamego’s statement on quickly digesting Saturday’s loss and then moving on to the RedHawks.
“We’ve got to look in the mirror, we’ve got to get better, we’ve got to stay together as a team,” he said. “It’s one loss. Adversity is going to come. Whether we’re winning or we’re losing, we have to stay together as a team. We’ll make the corrections and be ready to go next week.”
Ostman and fellow end Mike Danna led the CMU defense. Danna made 10 tackles and Ostman finished with eight. Josh Cox and Alex Briones added seven apiece.
Briones also had an interception, his second of the season, while Nate Brisson-Fast and Mitch Stanitzek each recovered a fumble. Sean Bunting and D’Andre Dill were credited with forcing the fumbles.
CMU punter Jack Sheldon turned in another solid performance, averaging 48.1 yards on 10 punts with a long of 64 yards, one shy of his career best. Seven of his punts were downed inside the Orange 20-yard line and none went for a touchback.
A week after setting career highs for receptions, yards and TD catches, Mark Chapman finished with a team-best seven catches for 50 yards for the Chippewas.
Ward had five catches for 66 yards, while Cole had three receptions for a team-high 75 yards.
The Chippewas finished with 105 rushing yards. Fifty-eight of those yards came in the second half, and the vast majority of those came in the fourth quarter when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Redshirt freshman Kumehnnu Gwilly led CMU with 44 yards on six carries, all of it coming on consecutive plays on CMU’s final possession.
Miami is 1-2 after a 21-17 home loss to Cincinnati on Saturday. The RedHawks were picked to finish second in the MAC East in the preseason poll of media who cover the league.
The RedHawks fell to Marshall, 31-26, in their season opener then topped Austin Peay, 31-10. Last year, Miami handed the Chippewas a 37-17 loss in Oxford, Ohio, snapping a three-game CMU win streak in the series.
Moving on II
Bonamego, summing up the day: “For us, it’s got to be a learning experience and if it’s not then we’re not getting better. We have to come back in tomorrow and really look at every single aspect of it, make sure the players understand where they’re supposed to be. I think we were out of place on some of those big plays obviously and I’m not sure whether we had to fast a flow or no secondary flow. For the dance and runs, they got up on us quick and we have to do a better job at that.”