What a difference one week makes.
After a rousing 49-23 win over then-No. 11 West Virginia, Syracuse was being mentioned as one of the teams that could make a legitimate challenge for the Big East’s BCS bid.
Those hopes quickly faded after a 27-10 pummeling by Louisville. The Orange offense, which gained 443 yards against the Mountaineers could only muster 246 yards against the Cardinals.
“We made plays last week and we didn’t make plays this week,” quarterback Ryan Nassib said to reporters following the game. “Me particularly, I definitely wasn’t accurate enough this week, and I didn’t make enough throws where guys were open.”
Nassib threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns against the Mountaineers. Against the Cardinals, Nassib could only muster 162 yards and a touchdown, facing constant pressure from the Cardinals defense all afternoon.
“It was more so tough because they send pressure from everywhere and at any time,” running back Antwon Bailey said. “I think that’s what made it tough and affected the passing game.”
Of course, Nassib wasn’t the only player to be off his game. It seemed like the entire Orange football team was discombobulated, combining for 12 penalty flags—five of them for personal foul calls.
On its first possession of the game alone, the Orange was flagged four separate times.
“We committed a lot of penalties early on in the game which is uncharacteristic of our team this year,” head coach Doug Marrone said. “I have to do a better job of making sure we understand and not have those types of penalties that put you in tough situations.”
Another telling stat was third down efficiency. The Orange was 12-17 against West Virginia and 3-14 against Louisville.
The Cardinals consistently forced the Orange into third and long situations, shutting down the Orange running game. Bailey was held to 70 yards, and no scores after rushing for more than 100 yards in four straight games.
“You have to remember it’s the 15th ranked defense so they’re not going to do anything different,” Marrone said. “We were taking our shots on first down where you need to take them. So now when you take those shots, it’s second-and-10. Then, when we ran the ball, sometimes we’d have third-and-7 or third-and-8. Those situations are tough to manage.”
Even more difficult to manage has been the inconsistency of his team, which has shown flashes of brilliance and ineptitude, often in the span of two weeks.
“We are an inconsistent football team who has to get better,” Marrone said. “I’m not going to use any excuses. Here we are in year three and it’s back and forth.”