Friday night, Louisville showed why they are imploding and #13 Syracuse was right there to take advantage. The Cardinals (2-8, 0-7) had four second quarter possessions that ended in a fumble, an interception, a fumble, and an interception in a span of six plays. The Orange (8-2, 5-2 ACC) exploited those turnovers, rolling up 27 points in just over seven-and-a-half minutes to build a 30-point lead and coast to a 54-23 win.
The victory was the fourth in a row for SU, who also capped their fourth clean home slate at the Carrier Dome at 6-0. The loss was the seventh straight for the Cards, who were often content to submarine their own chances, adding 17 penalties to their four turnovers. Louisville’s mistakes obscured those by Syracuse (three turnovers, seven penalties).
With less than five minutes left in the first quarter, Josh Black blocked a Louisville field goal attempt and Antwan Cordy scooped up the ball, returning it 31 yards to the Louisville 41. Three plays later, Jarveon Howard bulled in for a one-yard touchdown.
Andre Szmyt, who would have a busy night, tacked on the extra point, then capped the next SU drive with a 31-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
Louisville responded with a touchdown drive, but Moe Neal quickly got that score back. On the second play of the ensuing Orange possession, Neal burst up the middle and raced 67 yards for a touchdown. Szmyt tacked on the extra point to make it 17-7 with just over nine minutes left in the second quarter.
That explosive run started an avalanche of Cardinal mistakes followed by SU scores:
Alton Robinson recovered a fumble and Szmyt booted a 39-yard field goal four plays later to extend the Syracuse lead to 20-7.
Two plays later, Andre Cisco got a room service interception and raced 39 yards with the ball to the visitors’ two-yard-line. A handful of flags and plays later, Eric Dungey bulled into the end zone for a two-yard score and Szmyt’s extra point made the Orange lead 20 points.
Two plays after that, Kingsley Jonathan recovered another Louisville fumble, this one at the Cards’ 22. Szmyt cashed in this turnover with a 35-yard field goal to make it 30-7 in favor of SU.
Kielan Whitner intercepted a batted pass on the next Cardinal play and Neal eventually cashed it in with a two-yard touchdown run. Szmyt’s extra point kick was good, pushing the Syracuse lead to 37-7 with 1:28 left before halftime.
The Orange got the ball to open the third quarter and Neal blasted through the defense once more, ripping off a 68-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. A handful of plays later, video replay overturned the call on the field, crediting Dungey with his second rushing score of the game, this one from a yard out. Szmyt’s conversion made it 44-7 less than 90 seconds out of the locker room.
The remainder of the third was scoreless until the Cardinals got a touchdown with just six seconds on the clock, cutting the margin to 30.
The Orange were not content and, after three run plays to open their drive, Dungey went up top, connecting on a bomb to Nykeim Johnson that turned into a 65-yard touchdown pass. Szmyt’s extra point pushed the lead to 51-14. Szmyt would tack on a 38-yard field goal to cap the next SU drive, making it a 54-14 game.
The Cardinals would tack on a field goal and a touchdown, the latter coming with just over a minute left. That touchdown would lead to the last Louisville error when the extra point kick thunked off the upright.
Moe Neal had the biggest night of his career at Syracuse, turning eight carries into 159 yards and a pair of scores. Jarveon Howard (71 yards, one touchdown) and Eric Dungey (62 yards, two touchdowns) were a big part of SU’s 326 rushing yards. Dungey also completed 14-of-27 passes for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception before coming out of the game to a standing ovation and chants of his name by those who remained in the stands.
The Orange pass rush was dominant, led by Alton Robinson, who had two sacks and a fumble recovery. Kingsley Jonathan had 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery while Chris Slayton had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Shy Cullen added the team’s sixth sack. Andre Cisco and Kielan Whitner each had an interception while Ryan Guthrie led the team with nine tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
Andre Szmyt, who connected on six extra points and four field goals in the game for 18 points, is now the single-season record holder for points scored at Syracuse with 135. Szmyt also now owns the ACC record for field goals in a season at 27.
SU faces the first of two stiff road challenges to close out their schedule next Saturday. The Orange will travel to Yankee Stadium in New York City to take on #3 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish (9-0) play Florida State Saturday night prior to facing Syracuse.
Starting quarterback Ian Book will miss that game against the Seminoles due to a rib injury. Book has started the previous six games for the Irish, throwing at least two touchdown passes in each game.
The Irish and the Orange will face off at 2:30pm Eastern next Saturday and NBC will televise the game.