While the program is promoting that “Orange is the new fast,” the Syracuse football team showed Friday night that the phrase refers to their offensive tempo and not the overall athleticism level of the team, as #13 Louisville blew up their defense with big play after big play en route to a 62-28 rout at the Carrier Dome. The Orange (1-1, 0-1 ACC) were gouged early and often by the Cardinals (2-0, 1-0), who had 15 plays that gained at least 20 yards as they piled up 845 yards of total offense, the most ever allowed by an SU defense.
It also could have been worse for the Syracuse defense. The unit forced three turnovers to thwart Louisville drives, but were also helped by a couple handfuls of passes dropped by Cardinal receivers.
The Orange offense moved in fits and starts all night, seemingly either moving the ball with relative ease or failing to get going at all, depending on the possession. SU amassed 24 first downs in the game, but failed to move the chains on a dozen of their 20 possessions. Punter Sterling Hofrichter was called into action 11 times in the game, nine of them following three-and-outs.
Louisville wasted no time getting on the board via the big play, scoring three touchdowns in the game’s first five minutes to jump out to a 21-0 lead. A 72-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage set the tone, while a 61-yard run set up the second score and a 72-yard run provided the third tally.
The third Syracuse possession was the first resulting in points, as Eric Dungey finished the drive with an easy pitch-and-catch to a wide-open Brisly Estime, who cruised into the end zone untouched for a score. Cole Murphy’s extra point made it 21-7. Two possessions later, the Cards scored again, reinstating their 21-point lead.
The scoreboard remained quiet for just over a quarter of play and it was Louisville who changed the digits, adding another touchdown for a 35-7 lead.
The Syracuse offense struck back in two plays, though, getting a 32-yard completion to Steve Ishmael followed by a 47-yard touchdown pass from Dungey to Amba Etta-Tawo. Dungey evaded defensive pressure, then floated a pass downfield to Etta-Tawo, who bounced off a pair of defenders, then broke another tackle en route to the end zone. The extra point made it 35-14.
The Orange defense forced a punt and the offense turned it into more points, marching 68 yards for a touchdown. Etta-Tawo had the scoring honors again, this time pulling in a fade pass from four yards out. Murphy again added the extra point to draw SU within 35-21 with under a minute left in the second quarter.
Daivon Ellison gave SU an opportunity for more points before halftime when he intercepted a Cardinal pass and returned it 50 yards to their 38-yard line with two seconds left in the half. Murphy’s 55-yard field goal try from the right hash had enough distance, but went left of the uprights, leaving the Orange down 14 points at halftime.
After holding the SU offense on the opening possession of the third quarter, Louisville added another touchdown for a 42-21 lead. Syracuse would match that score just past the midpoint of the period when Dungey capped a 76-yard drive by sneaking into the end zone from a yard out. The extra point again drew the Orange within 14 points at 42-28.
Louisville strengthened their lead to 20 points with a pair of field foals early in the fourth quarter. SU turned the ball over early on their next two possessions and the Cards again punished them, scoring quick touchdowns on both ensuing possessions to make is 62-28 halfway through the final quarter, closing out the night’s scoring.
Eric Dungey found the going much tougher against the Louisville defense than in the opener against Colgate, completing 25-of-51 passes for 255 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Amba Etta-Tawo led the SU receivers once more, collecting eight passes for 103 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The ground game again struggled most of the night, putting together 121 yards on 40 carries as a unit.
Kielan Whitner had a fumble recovery to go with his team-high eight tackles in the game. Parris Bennett forced a pair of fumbles in the game and Zaire Franklin jarred the ball loose once, as well. Antwan Cordy recovered a fumble and Daivon Ellison had an interception for the SU defense, while McKinley Williams added a sack.
SU closes their three-game season-opening homestand on Saturday, September 17 when South Florida visits the Carrier Dome for Homecoming. The Bulls (1-0) host Northern Illinois today before headed to Syracuse next week. The Orange will kick off with the Bulls at 3:30pm Eastern and the game can be seen online at ESPN3.com.