SYRACUSE — Eric Dungey rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown and threw for another, tailback Dontae Strickland scored twice, and Syracuse beat Central Michigan 41-17 on Saturday.
It was a critical victory for Syracuse (2-1), which was upset at home last week by Middle Tennessee. Central Michigan (2-1) was coming off a big win at Kansas.
"It's fun when they're all locked and focused," Orange coach Dino Babers said. "They were ready to play. As a team, we weren't happy with what we put on the field last week."
It had been two years almost to the day since Dungey took a violent helmet-to-helmet hit in the Carrier Dome that knocked him out of a game against Central Michigan with a concussion in only his second start for the Orange. The Chippewas, who lost that game in overtime, returned with the player that delivered the blow - defensive end Mitch Stanitzek - a prominent part of their defense.
With the score tied late in the second quarter, Dungey showed he had put that play far in the rearview mirror. He rolled away from the rush of Stanitzek and hit Sean Riley for a 44-yard gain. Strickland scored on the next play from the 9 to give the Orange a 24-17 halftime lead.
The Orange defense dominated the third quarter as Syracuse outgained the Chippewas 333-60, taking control with big plays.
"We left some plays out there on defense," CMU defensive lineman Joe Ostman said. "Give all the credit to Syracuse, though. They played a great game. They beat us. I guess we've got to look in the mirror, get better."
Even when CMU pinned the Orange deep in their own territory, it had no effect. Moe Neal raced 71 yards up the right side and Dungey took over. He hit Steve Ishmael for 17 yards and then scored from the 1 for a 31-17 lead.
Dungey, who was 19 of 35 for 279 yards, finished the surge late in the third. His 74-yard run gave the Orange a first down at the 6 and he hit tight end Ravian Pierce for a score on the next play.
"It's just the little things," Dungey said. "We're starting to come together."
Central Michigan's Shane Morris, a transfer from Michigan, threw for 467 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-27 win last week at Kansas, but the Syracuse defense never let him get into a rhythm. Morris finished 22 of 45 for 279 yards with two interceptions.
The Chippewas did have their moments. They drove 91 yards in 11 plays to take a 17-10 lead midway through the second quarter, with Jonathan Ward scoring on a 17-yard screen pass.
Sean Riley, who finished with 247 all-purpose yards, returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards for the Orange, Dungey converted a fourth-and-1 run, and Strickland scored on an 18-yard catch-and-run to tie it.
Poor execution by both quarterbacks led to interceptions off deflections by each team in the first quarter and both picks were costly.
An errant throw by Dungey bounced into the arms of Alex Briones and Michael Armstrong hit a 30-yard field goal to give CMU a 10-3 lead late in the first. It was the ninth interception of the season for the Chippewas, who led the nation entering the game.
Morris returned the favor just over a minute later when his pass over the middle was intercepted and returned 24 yards for a touchdown by Syracuse's Evan Foster.
The Chippewas also forced a fumble by Markenzy Pierre and Morris quickly took advantage, hitting Cameron Cole for a 56-yard touchdown down the left side.
Dungey and Stanitzek shook hands at midfield after the game.
"I'm not going to hold a grudge against him. It's football," Dungey said. "I just wanted to go up and shake his hand and tell him he's a great player."
Central Michigan: The Chippewas have a balanced attack with Ward and Morris, but they have to correct their third-down problems. They converted 3 of 16 against the Orange and now are 12 of 48, one of the worst marks in FBS.
Syracuse: The Orange have to limit their mistakes if they hope to salvage something from the season. They've fumbled five times this season and lost every one. Ishmael fumbled midway through the third after a 29-yard gain and the ball bounded 22 yards into the end zone and was covered by CMU for a touchback. Ishmael finished with eight catches for 139 yards.
NUMBERS: Riley was Mr. Everything for Syracuse with 47 yards rushing, 82 receiving, 20 on punt returns and 98 on kickoffs as special teams play excelled.
UP NEXT: Syracuse faces its first ranked team when it travels to LSU, ranked No. 12 this week.