first_imgMOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — It’s OK now.No, there’s nothing really stunning about punching up a decapitated Central Michigan team. As a matter of executing a game plan and outplaying a less talented team, Saturday’s game was a success — what else do you call a 40-3 win? More importantly, though, it offered a glimpse of what Syracuse looks like as a winning football team.No such view existed after SU beat Villanova, 27-26, in double overtime to start the season. When Scott Shafer publicly thanked Orange fans for attending, he may as well have also been apologizing. If Syracuse owed its fans anything on Saturday, it was a collective “you’re welcome,” for being the best and, at times, only team on the field at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.“I had a lot of doubts in my mind whether I screwed some things up in that Villanova game,” Shafer said after the Orange’s win on Saturday. “You have a heart-to-heart with yourself and as coaches we knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to work at it.”In turn, SU’s dismantling of a CMU team without Thomas Rawls, the running back it shamelessly depended on, was more a consistent pounding than any sort of dazzling blowout. That’s how Syracuse is best set to win whenever it plays, whoever it plays.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThat’s what Syracuse is, in the week before it begins play against major conference opposition — a team than can shine, but must grind.“I’m not going to tell you the kids were feeling good coming into the game,” Shafer said. “I know they were sore. But that’s what we have to be at Syracuse. We have to be a tough football team.”If Syracuse’s blueprint of a breakneck offense comes to fruition, games against teams like Central Michigan will effectively end before halftime.Instead, the Orange chipped away, holding CMU on defense and threatening but not finishing on offense. Central Michigan started to crack, first, when Chippewas’ quarterback Cooper Rush was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety off a blitz from SU linebacker Cam Lynch.“That’s our plan, right, stop the run and then make the other team play left-handed a little bit,” SU defensive line coach Tim Daoust said.The SU defensive front doesn’t need to be any more stylish. Anyone who wants to see Lynch attempt a front flip off of Eric Crume’s shoulders before making a sack isn’t a Syracuse coach. It won’t happen.But sleeker opponents await SU. Running them off the field on either side of the ball just isn’t reality yet. The talent gap Syracuse enjoyed between itself and CMU doesn’t exist in the rest of the Orange’s schedule. If anyone wants to see Jamal Custis running more end-arounds, they’ll have to watch 3-yard pileups on offense and batted passes on defense first.The Orange still has to play rugged before it can play sexy — against Central Michigan, Maryland or Florida State.“For me it’s on to the next, you know, we have Maryland coming up,” cornerback Julian Whigam said. “I want to feel good, a couple minutes, couple hours, the rest of the day and then as soon as Sunday hits, focus on the game.”Saturday’s consistency will have to be reflected in the rest of the season against any opponent.But in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, a town of 26,000, a team can reset its season and find itself. Punching an opposing linebacker in the face one week can be forgotten 14 days later by a finger to the scoreboard. And it doesn’t matter what lights it up, as long as it’s the right team’s points. Comments Published on September 15, 2014 at 12:10 am Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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