After rolling up over 1,000 yards of offense in their previous two contests, Syracuse was stifled on Friday night, gaining only 270 yards in a 28-6 home loss to Louisville. In spite of their offensive difficulties, the Orange (2-3, 0-1 ACC) stayed within two possessions until late in the fourth quarter, but never truly threatened the Cardinals (5-1, 3-1). Louisville held the ball for nearly 37 minutes of the game, including nearly 20 minutes in the second half alone.
SU again was undone by their inability to sustain drives. The Orange were able to convert only 5-of-16 third down opportunities, a problem exacerbated by finding themselves with poor field position throughout the game. On their 14 possessions, Syracuse started off at their own 25 or worse 11 times.
After each team went three-and-out on their first possession, SU’s Julian Whigham made the first impact play of the game, intercepting a pass at the Cardinal 45. A handful of plays later, freshman wideout Steve Ishmael had the Orange on the doorstep with a diving grab that picked up 22 yards and reached the Louisville five-yard-line. Syracuse could only pick up one more yard before settling for a 21-yard field goal attempt from Cole Murphy. The kick was true and put the Orange in front, 3-0, with less than eight minutes elapsed.
The Cardinals responded by moving 65 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead with just over two minutes left in the first quarter. Syracuse was undone by a nine-yard loss on their first snap of the next drive and punted quickly. Louisville marched to the SU 25 and, on third-and-nine, had a fumble and SU recovery wiped out by a late delay of game flag. The Cards committed a couple more infractions and were forced to punt, but downed the ball at the SU one-yard-line.
On the second play after the change of possession, Adonis Ameen-Moore was cut down in the backfield on a toss sweep. Ameen-Moore failed to get out of the end zone, giving Louisville a safety and a 9-3 lead just three minutes into the second quarter.
The Cardinals again could not move, but after punting the ball to the Orange, picked off a Terrel Hunt pass and returned it to the Syracuse 27. The SU defense stood tall, though, pushing the Cards back seven yards. Louisville still cashed in the drive, getting a 51-yard field goal to push their lead to 12-3 with just under four minutes remaining in the opening half.
Each team punted once more, but Prince-Tyson Gulley showed some nice moves in making a 27-yard return off the Cardinals’ kick to give SU good field position at their own 49 with 50 seconds to play and no time outs remaining. The Orange could not do anything with the field position, as their clock management and lack of awareness cost them the chance to get points even after Hunt and Jarrod West connected for a 39-yard pass that got them to the Louisville two-yard-line.
SU allowed precious seconds to elapse by not hurrying to the line prior to West’s big gain, as well as both players trying to call time outs on the drive when the Orange were out of them. The big pass play resulted in a stopped clock with two seconds to go for the officiating crew to move the first down markers, but there was not enough time to spike the ball to stop the clock. As a result, Syracuse went to half down by nine and their best opportunity was squandered.
SU got the ball to start the second half and got a big play from Ben Lewis to threaten the Cards. Hunt and Lewis connected on a 48-yard pass play, but the junior wide receiver was stopped a yard shy of the end zone. With momentum on their side and Louisville backed up, the Orange opened up the playbook, opting for a couple trick plays.
First down was a handoff to Prince-Tyson Gulley for a halfback pass. Gulley could not find a receiver and was dropped for a loss of three. The Orange then added a pair of penalties to push themselves back to the 19. Wide receiver Jarrod West then was called on to pass on an end around. Lewis was wide open in the end zone, but simply did not catch West’s pass, which was right on target. The drive sputtered out after that and Cole Murphy booted his second field goal of the night, this one from 24 yards out, to pull SU within 12-6.
After each team punted once, the Cards broke through for a touchdown, stretching their lead to 19-6 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter. Following another SU punt, the Orange defense made another big play. Cameron Lynch ripped the ball away from a Louisville receiver and defensive tackle Wayne Williams pounced on the ball at the Cardinal 43. The Orange, however, gave the ball right back on the next play when Hunt was intercepted for the second time on the night.
After each team punted once more, the Cardinals went for the kill with a touchdown drive that made it a 26-6 game with 7:45 to play.
Things got worse for the Orange on their next possession when Hunt was sacked and knocked out of the game. Austin Wilson came on in relief for the second time this season, but was ineffective.
Wilson’s second drive was ended under an avalanche of Cardinal defenders. The ball, however, was not part of the pile, as it was knocked free and rolled out of bounds in the end zone, giving Louisville their second safety of the night and a 28-6 lead with 4:17 remaining. The Cardinals took the free kick and ran out the clock from there.
Terrel Hunt had a choppy night before leaving the game, posting a statistical line of 17 completions on 32 attempts for 196 yards and a pair of interceptions. Jarrod West topped the team for the second consecutive outing with five catches for 80 yards. Tight end Josh Parris also had five receptions.
Cameron Lynch led the Syracuse defense with seven tackles, including one of the unit’s three sacks, and a forced fumble. Darius Kelly also forced a fumble and Wayne Williams was credited with a fumble recovery. Eric Crume and Marquez Hodge each had a sack in the game.
Things do not get easier for Syracuse on this homestand, as the defending national champions from Florida State visit the Carrier Dome next Saturday. The Seminoles (4-0, 2-0) have a tuneup at home against Wake Forest this Saturday before heading north next week.
The SU-FSU matchup will be televised by ESPN and gets underway at noon Eastern.