Saturday afternoon, Syracuse sent its senior class out in style with a 45-26 romp over previously undefeated #10 Louisville. The Orange (5-5, 4-2 Big East) also gave their bowl hopes a major jolt with the win over the Cardinals (9-1, 4-1), as they now need to win only one of their remaining two contests on the schedule. As has often been the case on the season, the SU offense was the driving force, racking up 524 total yards, including 278 on the ground.
The Syracuse offense started the game with a hint of what was to come, marching 77 yards in eight plays before settling for a 20-yard Ross Krautman field goal and a 3-0 lead just over three minutes into the game. Louisville responded with a field goal of their own to knot the score, then forced an SU punt. The Cardinal punt returner, however, muffed the catch and Lewellyn Coker pounced on the ball at the Louisville 24 for the Orange. Five plays later, Prince-Tyson Gulley darted into the end zone from eight yards out and Krautman tacked on the extra point for a 10-3 SU lead with just over three minutes on the clock. Louisville used the ensuing drive to post a touchdown of their own and tie the game at 10-10 with under 90 seconds left in the first quarter. The Orange started at their own eight after the kickoff, but set off on their longest drive of the year. Syracuse marched 92 yards in 13 plays, capping the drive when Ryan Nassib found Alec Lemon on a 13-yard touchdown pass. Krautman tacked on the conversion and SU had a lead they would not give up at 17-10 with under 12 minutes remaining in the open half. After forcing a Cardinal punt, the Orange moved quickly, eating up 70 yards in six plays for another touchdown. This time, Nassib hit Lemon downfield and the wide receiver made a nifty cutback that enabled him to score on a 37-yard connection. Krautman’s extra point made it 24-10 in favor of the hosts with just over six minutes left on the second. Three plays after another Louisville punt, Gulley sent the Carrier Dome into a frenzy when he exploded for a 55-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good and the Orange held a commanding 31-10 lead with a little more than two minutes on the clock. The Cardinals were able to assemble a drive and get a field goal before the clock expired, but still went into halftime down 31-13.
The SU defense forced a quick punt on Louisville’s opening possession of the second half, then the offense picked up where it left off, driving 74 yards in nine plays for a score. This time, Jerome Smith took a handoff and bolted down the left side, carrying the ball in from 35 yards out. The extra point put the Orange up, 38-13, just over five minutes into the third quarter. After the squads traded punts, Louisville got a touchdown, but the Orange blocked the extra point to keep the margin at 38-19. Once again, the Syracuse offense revved up, going 56 yards in 11 plays. Nassib capped the drive by tossing a three-yard touchdown pass to linebacker Lewellyn Coker, who doubles as a fullback in the team’s short yardage formation. Coker turned the wrong way when looking for the ball and bobbled it slightly, but collected the pass as he fell to the turf with his first career touchdown. Krautman tacked on the conversion and the Orange lead stretched to 45-19 with just over 11 minutes remaining in the game. The Cardinals drove for a touchdown on their next possession, getting within 45-26 with under nine minutes left, then forced a three-and-out from the Orange. The SU defense stifled the Cards’ last threat when linebacker Dyshawn Davis intercepted a pass with under five minutes remaining. From that point, the Orange ground out a pair of first downs with their running game to run out the clock and finalize the win.
Ryan Nassib overcame a slow start to finish with a quietly effective 15 completions on 23 attempts for 246 yards and three scores. For the fourth consecutive outing, Jerome Smith rolled up over 100 rushing yards, this time rumbling for a personal-best 144 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Prince-Tyson Gulley just missed joining Smith in the century club, finishing with 98 yards on 15 rushes and a pair of touchdowns. Alec Lemon was dominant in his final Carrier Dome appearance, snaring nine passes for 176 yards and two scores. On defense, Lewellyn Coker and Dyshawn Davis each had a turnover in the game, Coker recovering a fumble and Davis picking off a pass.
The win was the 695th in school history, placing Syracuse in a tie for #15 all-time among FBS schools.
Alec Lemon now has 2,271 receiving yards in his career, which places him third in school history. Lemon has also caught at least one pass in 25 consecutive games.
Ryan Nassib did some re-writing in the record books, as well. Nassib broke the Big East record for career completions with 738 in his career. The quarterback also set an SU record for single-season total offense with 3,114 yards and passed Donovan McNabb for second all-time in passing yards with 8,460 in his career.
With bowl eligibility on the line, Syracuse hits the road for their two remaining games, starting at Missouri on Saturday. The Tigers (5-5) have had a rough transition to their first year of SEC play, but have won two of their last three games, including a four-overtime marathon over Tennessee on Saturday. Like the Orange, Missouri is also one win from bowl eligibility. Mizzou travels to #9 Texas A&M after playing SU, so they will be looking at Saturday’s game as a strong opportunity to sew up their own bowl berth. ESPNU will televise the game, which starts at 7 pm.Jim Stechschulte (Follow on Twitter @dsafetyguy)