SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The season opener for Syracuse football had it all. And not necessarily all on the positive side of things. The Orange were too big, too strong and too fast for the overmatched FCS Rhode Island Rams, and won in blowout fashion inside the Carrier Dome Friday night, 47-0.
"Great victory for our kids," head coach Scott Shafer said. "Was extremely pleased with the coaching job our staff did. I think we had three penalties. One was on me just not getting them on the field quick enough on that sideline. Other than that, I thought our kids played a disciplined football game. I was really impressed with the number of players that participated and had a lot of productivity."
The game was somewhat marred by Terrel Hunt, who went down with a lower body injury at the 7:38 mark of the first quarter and did not return. Hunt's injury looked bad, as he could not put pressure on his right leg and had to leave the field on crutches.
"Keep your prayers out there for Terrel," Shafer said after the game. "Tough deal. Tough deal." We think Erv's going to be OK. But Terrel's deal's not good. Just keep your thoughts and prayers out there for him and his family."
Shafer added that Terrel's achilles "popped." No official word but it sounds like Hunt is done for the season.
This opener was a strange one and not just because of Hunt's injury. There were three turnovers (two by Rhode Island, one by Syracuse) in the first 55 seconds of game time. Syracuse’s first touchdown of the season came on a pick six by Corey Winfield just over four minutes into the game.
Syracuse later got a safety when Rhode Island quarterback Paul Mroz had two forward passes on the same play from his own end zone (the first was batted back to him by Amir Ealey and he caught it, then threw again). Just par for the course in a strange season opener, but one that saw the Orange dominate in a victory. Syracuse scored via defensive touchdown, special teams touchdown, safety, rushing touchdown and passing touchdown.
True freshman Eric Dungey filled in for Hunt and played well. He threw his first two touchdowns of his career, both to Ervin Philips for the first two of Philips career. He finished 10-17 passing for 114 yards and those two scores. He also ran for 20 yards.
"I thought Eric Dungey did a nice job," Shafer said. "We really didn't anticipate or want to throw him to the wolves like this so quick. But God love him. He's a great kid. He works extremely hard. He's going to have a good future here. I liked his reads. He was on the right reads and on the right side of the field with a lot of his preparation going into the thing." Philips did not play in the second half, also suffering an undisclosed lower body injury.
Brisly Estime capped a dominant half of football for the Orange with a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was the first punt return for a score since 2003 for Syracuse, when Marcus Clayton accomplished the feet against West Virginia.
The Syracuse defense came to play, forcing four turnovers and holding the Rams to just 64 yards of total offense. The Rams were also just 1-11 on third down conversions.
"Hats off to coach (Chuck) Bullough and the defensive staff and those kids," Shafer said. "I think they gave up something like 60 yards or something like that. Great defensive effort. Eight new starters on defense. Went into the game and my stomach was saying, 'young guys just go play hard and take shots.'
"But in the back of your head there's part of you that's saying that's eight, nine, ten new guys running around. I was really pleased with the way they played."
The domination only continued in the second half as Syracuse came out of the locker room with an 85-yard drive, capped by true freshman Jordan Fredericks’ first career touchdown on a 13-yard scamper. Fredericks led Syracuse in rushing with 103-yards on 14 carries. He saw the bulk of the meaningful action for the offense.
True freshman Dontae Strickland also got into the action, rushing for 42 yards on two carries, including the first touchdown of his career from 21-yards out. Freshman walk-on Jacob Hill saw mop-up duty in the second half, rushing for over 70 yards.
Syracuse starts the season 1-0 for the second consecutive year.