SU Faces Tough Matchup Vs Western Michigan
SYRACUSE. – Syracuse is back in the Dome for the second straight Saturday when it hosts Western Michigan on Sept. 21. The Broncos blasted Georgia State a week ago, who had won at Tennessee in its season opener. What does this all mean?
PLAYING THE MATCHUP GAME
Comparing results, especially in the early portion of the college football season, is not for the faint of heart. Taking a team's previous wins and losses in an attempt to predict outcomes is not always a productive plan.
For example – Georgia State opened its season by winning at Tennessee, 38-30. Rocky Top was surely shaken after that upset. Two weeks later, an undefeated Georgia State club was dismantled by Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, 57-10. Try to make sense of that!
It's probably not possible. This is for sure – Western Michigan is capable of scoring plenty of points and Syracuse has first-hand evidence of that, having beaten the Broncos last season, 55-42.
LESTER RETURNS TO THE DOME
Western Michigan gridiron boss Tim Lester will know exactly which way to go when he enters the Dome with his squad on Saturday. He spent three seasons at Syracuse on the staff of former head coach Scott Shafer. Lester was the Orange quarterbacks coach in 2013 and its offensive coordinator in 2014-15. He will be watching the game from a different side of the field – the north side – but otherwise it will be familiar surroundings.
He has a couple of staff members who also know the Dome layout well. Broncos offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jake Moreland was the tight ends coach at Syracuse in 2015. Drew Robinson, Western Michigan's Assistant AD for Football Operations, graduated from Syracuse and was the football team's director of operations in 2015 under Shafer.
In last year's encounter between the two clubs, the Orange jumped out to a 34-7 lead by halftime. The Broncos answered after the intermission and actually outscored Syracuse over the final two periods, 35-21.
HOFRICHTER RAISING THE ROOF
Redshirt senior Sterling Hofrichter has had a spectacular start punting the ball in 2019. He ranks fifth nationally in gross punt average with a 48.1 mark on 20 kicks. Of the 20 punts, 10 have traveled at least 50 yards and 10 have landed inside the opposition's 20-yard line.
Syracuse fans who sat in the 300-level seats for the Clemson game got a great look at his efforts, thanks to the height and hang time he was putting on his kicks. Hofrichter averaged 52.2 yards per punt with six kicks of 50+ yards against the Tigers to win ACC Specialist of the Week and Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week honors.
Hofrichter heads into the Western Michigan contest ranked fifth in both career punts (221) and career punting yards (9,586) at Syracuse.
NCAA FBS Punting Leaders
1. Max Duffy, Kentucky – 51.2
2. Oscar Bradburn, Virginia Tech – 50.1
3. Michael Turk, Arizona State – 49.5
4. Jacob Oldroyd, BYU – 49.2
5. Sterling Hofrichter, Syracuse – 48.1
SYRACUSE SEEKS TO UNLOCK SCORING VAULT
The Orange have averaged 16.7 points per game in their three outings. Its the lowest three-game mark since the 2016 season when Syracuse managed an 11.3 average in consecutive November losses at Clemson (54-0), and at home to NC State (35-20) and Florida State (45-14). Syracuse will try to jumpstart its attack against a Western Michigan defense that is allowing 24.7 points per contest and 196.3 yards rushing a game.
GOING FOR IT
Orange mentor Dino Babers has a well-known reputation for attempting fourth-down conversions in situations most coaches would shy away from. His counterpart at Western Michigan, Time Lester, is developing that same reputation.
The Broncos are first among FBS programs in fourth-down conversion rate, having been successful in all five attempts so far this season. Western Michigan is one of 22 squads who are perfect on fourth down this fall. Of those 22, only Coastal Carolina (8) has more than five tries.
BRONCO BALANCED ON OFFENSE
Western Michigan comes to the Salt City with an offensive arsenal that has been productive on the ground and through the air. The Broncos are averaging more than 500 yards of total offense (501.3) after three games this season. A breakdown of the numbers shows Western Michigan tallying 202.3 yards per game rushing and 299 passing.
The Orange defense will have to be aware of running backs LeVante Bellamy and Sean Tyler, who are averaging 6.0 and 11.9 yards per carry, respectively. Bellamy had a career day last Saturday when he rushed for 192 yards versus Georgia State. The leading ground-gainer in the Mid-American Conference, Bellamy has scored four touchdowns in his senior season.
Syracuse saw Broncos quarterback Jon Wassink in last year's high-scoring affair. Wassink totaled 379 yards passing and three touchdown tosses in that contest. He's also been remarkably accurate, connecting on 70.7 percent of his passes (58-82) with seven TDs against two interceptions.
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