It’s understandable that the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders’ game against the Syracuse Orange Saturday meant a little more than normal for MTSU defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. Shafer was Syracuse’s defensive coordinator from 2009-12 and their head coach from 2013-15, but was fired at 4-7 in his final year (he stayed on to coach their season-ending loss to Boston College), and left with a 14-23 overall record.
Shafer was hired as the Blue Raiders’ DC this year, and he helped them pull off a 30-23 road upset of the Orange Saturday. Earlier this summer, he reportedly told his players “Win this game, and we’ll be best friends for life,” and MTSU’s effort certainly seems likely to make that possible, as John Taylor writes at College Football Talk:
Anywhere from 7.5 and 8.5-point underdogs heading into the game, MTSU — and dozens of their coordinator’s new best friends — will head back to Murfreesboro with a 30-23 upset of Shafer’s former team stuffed firmly into their back pockets. Quarterback Brent Stockstill played a significant role in the upset, passing for 269 yards and three touchdowns on the day.
Shafer’s defense came to play as well. After running up 586 yards of offense against FCS Central Connecticut in the opener a week ago, ‘Cuse was held to 308 by MTSU.
Shafer even lit up a celebratory cigar afterwards:
Epic: 2 years after being fired as Syracuse's head coach, Scott Shafer upsets SU w/ MTSU. Had celebratory cigar ready pic.twitter.com/zut9RIaYoF
— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) September 9, 2017
That upset is particularly notable considering how much Syracuse paid Middle Tennessee to come play there:
Middle Tennessee State beats Syracuse, who is paying them $950,000. Eastern Michigan beats Rutgers, who is paying them $860,000.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 9, 2017
And that’s some good revenge for Shafer. His defense was key to that win, holding Orange quarterback Eric Dungey to 26 completions on 42 attempts (61.9 per cent) for just 180 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. They were also strong on the ground; Dungey picked up 53 rushing yards and a touchdown, but it took him 19 attempts to get there (2.8 yards per carry), and the rest of the Syracuse team only collected 86 rushing yards. So that’s a very nice game for Shafer and his defense. And now he has a whole bunch of new friends.