The Orange needs just one more win to secure a bowl berth after its 45-26 upset of No. 9 Louisville. Here are my grades from the game:
Can’t really complain about an offense that racked up 45 points, 524 total yards and 278 yards on the ground. A lot of that credit goes to the offensive line, who bought Ryan Nassib (246 yards, three touchdowns) plenty of time to find Alec Lemon (176 yards and two TDs) and opened huge holes for Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley (combined 242 yards and three touchdowns).
The one-two punch of Smith and Gulley has really turned into an effective combination. Smith is exactly the kind of punishing, bruising back that Syracuse always seems to groom. Gulley is the perfect change of down back, as evidenced by his 55 yard scamper for a score in the second quarter. Throw in a healthy Adonis Ameen-Moore and a cameo from Ashton Broyld, and Syracuse coach Doug Marrone has to be pleased with the options in his backfield. Better yet, all of them will be back next year.
Syracuse was also efficient on third down (14-19) and didn’t turn the ball over. It was basically the exact opposite performance that the unit had last week.
The Syracuse defense probably got tired of hearing all week how Teddy Brigewater was going to dominate them. To be sure, Bridgewater finished with some gaudy numbers—424 yards and three touchdowns—but the Orange contained him in the first half. The Cardinals could only manage 13 points before intermission, and finished with just 46 rushing yards on the day. This came after USF rushed for 369 rushing yards, and Cincinnati notched 263 rushing yards. It was certainly nice to see the Orange return to its stingy ways in the ground game.
By the time Bridgewater found a rhythm, the game was already out of hand. It’s fitting that on its last possession of the game, Bridgewater was intercepted by LB Dyshawn Davis. This is one of the few occasions where the defense can earn this kind of grade despite giving up 472 total yards.
Special Teams: A
You know things are good when the special teams are making big plays. The much-maligned unit blocked an extra point, recovered a muffed punt, and Ross Krautman converted his only field goal attempt of the day while tacking on six PATs.
Jonathan Fisher didn’t have to punt very often, but when he did, he averaged 47.3 yards and pinned Louisville inside its own 10 once.