A quick take on Syracuse’s head-shaking 41-17 defeat to Louisville on a partly cloudy, 60 degree Saturday afternoon, in front of 46,158 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse dropped its sixth straight game for the first time since 2005’s disaster season that ended 1-10, and its play on the field regressed as the game progressed. That kind of performance is only going to keep the heat on Scott Shafer, as athletic director Mark Coyle had a rather glum look on his face at times in and around the visiting AD’s box at the stadium. UL led 21-10 at halftime and was never threatened in the second half doing all the scoring until a meaningless SU touchdown with 0:26 to play. The Cards were led by quarterback Kyle Bolin and an aggressive defense that scored a TD on a ‘pick six’ of Eric Dungey in the second quarter, and stripped Dungey of the ball in the fourth quarter to set up another UL touchdown. Amazingly, down 31 points with under 6:00 to play, Dungey was still in the game when he got hit hard and had to leave with what appeared to be a head/shoulder area injury.
ANALYSIS: Orange Nation might have had a bad feeling about how this game would turn out after Louisville (5-4, 3-2) scored on its opening possession for only the second time this season, and it was all downhill from there With an opportunity to score a touchdown with the third quarter kickoff to cut the lead to four points, the best the Orange (3-6, 1-3) could do was attempt a 52 yard field goal by Cole Murphy which would have been a career high, but it missed right, symbolic of its failure to get anything going on offense. The final ignominious moment came when holder Riley Dixon’s fake field goal pass to eligible receiver Ron Thompson came up short on fourth down early in the fourth quarter. The much maligned ‘Cuse secondary had another shaky day against young gun ‘Ville quarterback Bolin, giving up three touchdown passes.
HERO: UL sophomore Bolin, starting only his second game of the season, had a career passing day against an Orange ‘D’ that was off keel from the opening series. Bolin found eight different receivers finishing 24-35 passing for 362 yards, with two of his three scoring strikes going to tight end Cole Hikutini.
ZERO: Not that it mattered in the final outcome, but for the third straight game questionable strategy, penalties, and shaky clock management almost allowed the opponent to add points just before halftime. Up 21-10, Louisville got down to the SU 32 yard line as the half expired, following SU deciding to not run out the clock, even knowing it would receive the second half kickoff, with 0:38 to play in the second quarter. Six straight losses, numbers not associated with the program since the Greg Robinson days, means Coyle has some tough (imminent?) decisions ahead, and he and his staff have a lot of work to do overall to fix Orange football.
WHAT’S NEXT: Don’t look now, but Syracuse returns home to face Clemson next Sat., Nov. 14. The Tigers (8-0, 5-0) were the top choice in the first College Football Playoff rankings released earlier in the week, and have a major test hosting Florida State later Sat. afternoon. Clemson has won both ACC meetings against the Orange the last two seasons. Game Time/TV: To be announced by the conference Sun. morning Nov. 8.