Western Michigan second-year head coach Tim Lester is familiar with the Broncos’ opening-game opponent.
After all, Lester was the former offensive coordinator at Syracuse back in 2015, when a number of his current assistant coaches were also on the staff, including Jake Moreland and Tim Daoust.
Now, it will be Lester and his staff’s job to try to find a way to slow down Eric Dungey, Syracuse’s senior quarterback who Lester recruited.
The Broncos host Syracuse and Dungey – who is the lone active FBS quarterback with 6,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards – Friday at 6 p.m. at Waldo Stadium.
Dungey started Syracuse’s first nine games last season before going down with an injury. He threw for 365 yards and two TDs in a 27-24 win over Pittsburgh and followed that up with a 278-yard, three-TD game in a 27-24 upset of Clemson, which went on to the College Football Playoff.
However, after the 4-3 start, Syracuse dropped its final five games, including a 27-19 loss to Miami and 27-24 setback to Florida State before Dungey’s injury.
“Obviously, I have a lot of connection there and really enjoyed my time there,” said Lester of his time at Syracuse. “Eric Dungey is a very talented quarterback and I never thought when I recruited and coached him that I’d ever have to play against him. He’s an exciting talent and I’m excited to see him again, and for us it’s an exciting test.”
WMU will be in search of its first win at Waldo against a Power Five team, losing to Virgina Tech (2002), Virginia (2003), Indiana (2007) and Michigan State (2015).
Lester is thrilled to have safety Justin Tranquill back after suffering a season-ending knee injury in a Week 2 loss at Michigan State. Syracuse transfer Juan Dowels will also get playing time in the secondary, as will cornerbacks Obbie Jackson (West Bloomfield) and Emanuel Jackson (Novi).
Lester will be calling plays for the first time with the Broncos, working with junior quarterback Jon Wassink, who returns after missing the last several games of the 2017 season, his first year as starter, due to a broken collarbone.
CMU faces 'athletic' 'Cats
Central Michigan owns Power Five Conference victories over Oklahoma State (30-27, 2016) and Kansas (45-27, 2017) and will now try to get the season off with a win at Kentucky Saturday.
Kentucky finished 7-6 last season, including a 24-23 Music City Bowl loss to Northwestern, which was its third loss by three or fewer points.
CMU fourth-year coach John Bonamego is getting his defense ready to face multiple quarterbacks, including junior college transfer in Terry Wilson and sophomore Gunnar Hoak.
Eastern Michigan pushed Kentucky to the limit last year in Lexington before suffering a 24-20 loss. CMU beat EMU 42-30 a month later to come away with the Michigan MAC trophy.
“They’re obviously a very athletic team, big, long and fast defensively, and they run to the football,” said Bonamego of Kentucky. “They’ve got all seniors on the back end of their defense."
Kentucky showcases junior running back Benny Snell, who rushed for 1,333 yards and 19 TDs to help the Wildcats to a 5-1 start before a 2-5 finish.
EMU tackles FCS foe Monmouth
Eastern Michigan hosts Monmouth in the Eagles’ opener Friday night at Rynearson Stadium.
Monmouth finished 9-3 with an FCS playoff spot, losing to Northern Iowa, 46-7, last season.
EMU’s opener could give fifth-year coach Chris Creighton an opportunity to play multiple quarterbacks, including Iowa transfer Tyler Wiegers, sophomore Isaac Stiebeling and true freshman Aaron Jackson (Detroit Cass Tech).