For the fourth time this season, Syracuse allowed over 500 yards in a game, as Louisville cruised to a 41-17 home win. The Cardinals (5-4, 4-2 ACC) rarely had problems moving the ball as they rolled up 579 yards of offense, the most permitted by the Orange (3-6, 1-4) during this campaign. The loss was the sixth straight for SU, whose season has fallen off a cliff after their first 3-0 start since 1991.
The hosts picked apart the Syracuse defense throughout the game, amassing 308 yards in the first half and 271 after the intermission. Louisville shredded the Orange secondary before the break with 241 yards through the air, then rolled up 150 on the ground in the second session. The Cards had four plays in each half that gained at least 20 yards while SU totaled three in the game. Those big plays kept Louisville out of third down situations, where they were inefficient, finishing the game having converted only 1-of-9 opportunities.
Syracuse added injury onto insult when quarterback Eric Dungey was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter with the Orange already in a 41-10 hole. Dungey scrambled out of the pocket and evaded a couple tacklers before getting tackled, then needed medical assistance. In the postgame press conference, when asked about Dungey’s injury, head coach Scott Shafer said, “It’s upper body, it’s his head.”
On the second play of the game, Louisville got their first explosive play, a 52-yard run that eventually led to a touchdown and a 7-0 lead before the game was two minutes old.
Cordell Hudson ended Louisville’s second possession by stepping in front of a pass to intercept the ball and return it to the Louisville 46. Eric Dungey dropped a perfect pass to Brisly Estime to move to the ten, then Erv Philips scooted in from there on a jet sweep for a touchdown. The extra point from Cole Murphy capped the quick strike drive and knotted the score at sevens with less than five minutes elapsed.
The SU offense posted a second strong drive on their next possession, moving 62 yards on 16 plays before settling for a 36-yard field goal from Murphy. The kick gave the Orange a 10-7 lead with 14 seconds left in the first.
Louisville responded with a strong drive, but the Syracuse defense rose to the occasion with their backs against the wall. On second-and goal from the Orange four-yard-line, Zaire Franklin stripped the Cardinal ballcarrier and Steven Clark pounced on the ball for a fumble recovery.
Two possessions later, Louisville notched a turnover of their own. Dungey stared down his receiver before throwing and a the Cardinal cornerback stepped in front of the pass and returned the interception 39 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. The extra point gave the hosts a 14-10 lead with under six minutes to go in the half.
The Louisville offense kicked into gear on their next possession, needing just over two minutes to go 89 yards for a touchdown. The conversion stretched their lead to 21-10 with 1:23 left before halftime. Despite each team having a pair of possessions before the break, the score remained the same at intermission.
The Orange got into scoring position on their first possession of the second half on a 30-yard catch by Steve Ishmael, but were forced to settle for a 52-yard field goal. Murphy’s attempt from the right hash stayed outside the upright, giving the ball to the Cards.
Louisville responded with a touchown drive to extend their lead to 28-10 with just over five minutes off the clock. The Cardinals would tack on a field goal late in the period, pushing their lead to 21 points.
SU again drove into enemy territory, but once more, the drive sputtered. This time, the Orange opted for a fake field goal, but Riley Dixon’s flip pass to Ron Thompson on fourth-and-eight lost a yard.
The Orange defense would get the ball back when Kielan Whitner forced a fumble that Clark pounced on. Unfortunately, SU gave it right back on a Dungey fumble that was returned to the Syracuse 12. Louisville scored on the next play, making it a 38-10 game.
The Orange turned it over again, this time when Dungey was picked off on the second play of the ensuing drive. The SU defense held this time and the Cards settled for a chip shot field goal.
Syracuse was forced to punt on their next possession, but the Cardinals’ returner muffed the punt. Ben Lewis covered up the ball, giving the Orange possession at the Louisville 38. Dungey was knocked out of the game three plays later, but Zach Mahoney replaced him to finish off the scoring drive with a nine-yard scoring pass to Ishmael with 26 seconds to play. Murphy added the extra point, which closed the scoring at 41-17.
Before leaving the game Eric Dungey completed 15-of-30 passes for 158 yards with a pair of interceptions. Dungey was also the leading ground gainer, finishing with 45 yards on 13 carries. Steve Ishmael led the Orange with 61 receiving yards, while Josh Parris had five catches.
Cordell Hudson and Kielan Whitner tied for the team lead with nine tackles apiece and Hudson also had an interception. Freshman defensive tackle Steven Clark recovered a pair of fumbles for SU, one forced by Whitner and the other by Zaire Franklin. Ben Lewis was also credited with a fumble recovery on special teams. Donnie Simmons recorded the lone sack of the day for the Orange.
SU returns home next week to host #1 Clemson. The Tigers (9-0, 6-0) scored ten fourth quarter points to defeat #16 Florida State and preserve their perfect record. Clemson rolled up 512 yards in the game en route to the win.
Game time and television coverage will be announced on Sunday.