Wojo, Niyo, Chengelis, Charboneau preview UM, MSU's opening games The Detroit News


Kalamazoo — When Tim Lester recruited Eric Dungey to play quarterback at Syracuse a few years ago, games like Friday night were what he envisioned.

Just not against Lester’s team.

The Syracuse quarterback compiled 384 yards of total offense, leading the Orange to a 55-42 victory against Western Michigan, returning in the second half after it looked like he might have a short night.

The Broncos are led by Lester, the former offensive coordinator at Syracuse, who was the main recruiter for Dungey when he was an unheralded high school player our of Lake Oswego, Oregon. He thanked his former coach on the field after the game.

“I just told him, thank you for everything,” Dungey said. “He’s very competitive and I’m very competitive, so I’m glad I could come out on top in this one.”

It looked like it would be an easy one for the Orange, who scored the first 17 points of the game and led 34-7 at halftime.

More: Wojo's Pigskin Picks: Michigan hatching a new plan to beat Notre Dame

More: Detroit News college picks: Week 1

More: Challenge Detroit News columnist in Wojo's Picks contest

Dungey connected with Jamal Custis six times for 168 of his 184 passing yards. The senior wide receiver set career highs with those numbers, in addition to two touchdowns.

But when Syracuse coach Dino Babers inserted backup quarterback Tommy DeVito, a redshirt freshman, Western Michigan charged back, scoring 21 straight points after halftime.

Quarterback Jon Wassink found D’Wayne Eskridge for two touchdowns and LeVante Bellamy had a 64-yard touchdown to pull within 34-28.

That’s when Dungey came back, leading three straight drives for touchdowns.

“He’s like a river behind a dam, you’ve got to hold him off,” Babers said. “I wanted to see if we could battle out of that without him. But we didn’t get that done, so we put him back in.”

Syracuse’s Kielan Whitner intercepted Wassink on the first play of the fourth quarter. On the next play, Dungey scored a 27-yard run to go up 55-35.

Dungey rushed for 200 yards, a Syracuse record for rushing yards by a quarterback.

“He’s a really good player, and we knew that coming in,” Lester said of his former recruit. “The plan early on was to run the ball and try to control the clock, but they buried us early and so we had to switch things up. We didn’t have the consistency in our run game that we want yet.”

WMU player injured

Western Michigan junior running back Davon Tucker was taken off the field on a stretcher after suffering an upper body injury blocking on a kickoff return Friday against Syracuse.

He was the second college football player taken off the field on a stretcher after a kickoff play on opening weekend.

Tucker appeared to injure his head or neck when he lowered his head for a collision in the first quarter while blocking for the return.

Kristin Keirns, a Western Michigan representative, said Tucker was responsive and spoke to coach Tim Lester and medical officials while being treated on the field for several minutes. He raised his arms as he was being taken off the field.

Tucker was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Keirns said.

More Friday games

(At) Eastern Michigan 51, Monmouth (N.J.) 17: Tyler Wiegers and Mike Glass II threw two touchdown passes apiece, wideout Isaac Holder found Bryce Kemp on a flea-flicker and Eastern Michigan routed Monmouth (NJ)  for its first-ever win against a Big South Conference team.

The Eagles scored on their first four possessions and led 30-3 at halftime after Weigers’ 16-yard TD pass to Blake Banham, Holder’s 30-yard toss and Glass’ TD passes to Dylan Drummond and Kine Latu.

Weigers was 18-of-21 for 238 yards in Eastern Michigan’s season opener. Glass completed three of five passes for 30 yards and scored on a 16-yard run.

Banham caught eight passes for 103 yards and Kyle Rachwai’s interception of a Kenji Bahar pass set up Glass’s TD pass to Latu.

Bahar was 25-of-42 for 190 yards passing, with an interception and an 8-yard TD run. Freshman Juwon Farri gained 111 of Monmouth’s 187 rushing yards on 13 carries and scored his first career TD on a 38-yard run.

Millikin 25, (at) Hope College 21: Millikin University won on a 17-yard touchdown from Nicco Stepina to Gerald Perry midway through the fourth quarter in the season opener in Holland, Mich in Division III play. Hope quarterback Mason Opple threw for 139 yards and two touchdowns, and Kenyea Houston racked up 102 yards rushing.

Central faces ‘great test’

In its opener Saturday, Central Michigan will meet Kentucky for the first time since the Wildcats’ 27-13 victory in 2011 improved them to 6-0 in the series. From 1983-92 the schools opened four times against each other, a string Kentucky also hopes to maintain.

The Chippewas aim to finally break through after finishing 8-5 and making their fourth consecutive postseason in the Idaho Potato Bowl against Wyoming.

CMU boasts experience with 14 returning starters, including five on offense. The Chippewas are led by versatile running back Jonathan Ward, who rushed for 1,019 yards and 10 touchdowns and added 470 yards receiving with three TDs.

Their defense is also seasoned, which fourth-year coach John Bonamego hopes will help add Kentucky to the upset list.

“It’ll be a great test for us,” he said. “I want to see consistency.”