SYRACUSE — Brent Stockstill threw touchdown passes on three consecutive drives, Middle Tennessee capitalized on a big Syracuse miscue and overcame more than 100 yards in penalties to defeat Syracuse 30-23 Saturday in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Syracuse (1-1) led 16-9 when Stockstill hit Richie James for a 28-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 16 late in the third quarter. The drive was kept alive on a muffed fair catch by Syracuse's Sean Riley.
Middle Tennessee (1-1) took the lead when Stockstill found Ty Lee on a 48-yard score. After Eric Dungey tied it on a 29-yard quarterback draw, Stockstill hit Shane Tucker for a 10-yard touchdown for a 30-23 lead with 6:46 left to play.
"We're not playing very well on offense," Stockstill said. "We have to get a lot better, but those guys on other side of the ball picked us up, kept us energized. We were able to grind it, out get a couple of touchdowns and get the lead."
Stockstill was 22 of 36 for 269 yards and had 11 carries for 41 yards. Lee had 18 carries for 50 yards and one rushing score and seven receptions for 76 yards and another score. James had eight catches for 96 yards and one touchdown. Dungey was 25 of 41 for 166 yards with one interception.
The Blue Raiders were penalized nine times for 113 yards and fumbled four times losing two.
The game marked a homecoming for former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer, who was carried off the field by his players in a last-second victory over Boston College in November 2015 in his final game leading the Orange. He returned Saturday as Middle Tennessee's defensive coordinator, and his defense played with the intensity that matched those of his Syracuse units.
"It was difficult for me today having the kids come over and say hello, but that's what it's about," Shafer said. "I was in their homes recruiting them, not too long ago. They're good kids, that's what college football is supposed to be about."
Shafer and Syracuse head coach Dino Babers agreed Shafer's knowledge of the Orange offense was extremely beneficial.
"It was interesting, you know their (Syracuse's) strengths and weaknesses," Shafer said. "You try to put together a game plan where the kids can understand what we want to get done."
"If you're a good coach and have a lot of knowledge about the personnel it's an advantage," Babers said. "I've coached a couple of these games myself. When you know a lot about the other team and you're not guessing about it it's a huge advantage."
Syracuse didn't get its initial first down until early in the second quarter, and held the Orange to minus 26 yards in the first quarter. Dungey was constantly pressured and was sacked five times. Shafer's defense held the Orange to just 13 first-half points on four drives into the red zone.
MIDDLE TENNESSSE STATE: The Blue Raiders maintained their composure to overcome a sloppy effort. Coach Rick Stockstill will want to clean up the penalties and fumbles before next week's game against a Big Ten opponent ... Defensive end Walter Brady was disqualified after a penalty for targeting Dungey.
SYRACUSE: The Orange badly needed this game. With one of the nation's toughest schedules, the Orange will be hard pressed to make the postseason ... Receiver Steven Ishmael had a career-high 14 catches for 116 yards ... Safety Antwan Cordy, who missed the final 10 games last season, is expected to be out five more weeks with a hairline fracture of his leg, according to a report ... The Orange celebrated the 30th anniversary of the undefeated 1987 football team by recognizing members of the team on the field following the first quarter.
SYRACUSE: The Orange finish up a three-game, season-opening home stand Saturday against Central Michigan. Syracuse then hits the road at LSU.