A quick take on Syracuse’s demoralizing 56-34 loss to Louisville on a chilly and sometimes misty, high 30-degrees evening at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse (4-7, 1-6) saw its bowl game hopes extinguished with its seventh loss of the season with one game left to play. The Orange fell behind 7-0 following Louisville’s first drive of the game, and UL never looked back. Anytime the Orange scored showing a glimpse of momentum, including 24 second half points, the Cardinals had an answer against an eventually worn-out ‘Cuse defense. The reality of a 5-7 or 4-8 final record, the latter matching Dino Babers first two seasons, is a big letdown for Orange Nation after the 10-win, bowl game victory season of 2018.
ANALYSIS: Perhaps Babers should have elected to take the football after winning the coin toss. Louisville (7-4, 5-3) promptly went down the field to take a 7-0 lead after less than five minutes of play, and despite the burst of second-half SU scoring, the Cards always had a touchdown answer to match. Louisville’s offense (514 yards) had the Orange ‘D’ off-balance all evening, utilizing the triple-threat speed of nifty quarterback Micale Cunningham, running back Javian Hawkins, and receiver Tutu Atwell. Tommy DeVito struggled to keep drives going, was hurried often and sacked twice, and after he could only keep Syracuse within two scores into the fourth quarter was replaced by Clayton Welch. Welch, victimized by an offense out of sync and two false start penalties, twice failed to connect on fourth down plays to get SU points. The Orange running game came to life in the second half, finishing with 261 yards on the ground. Moe Neal was marvelous with 15 carries for 162 yards and a beautiful 45-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
HERO: The offense wizardry of Cunningham’s running and passing made it hard for the Syracuse defense to keep him off the field. The sophomore, who has a little of UL great Lamar Jackson in him, threw for 238 yards and five scores, including 90-yards to Atwell who had five catches for 152 yards and another TD grab. The fleet Hawkins, a redshirt freshman, ran for 233 yards and a touchdown.
ZERO: Syracuse was victimized by giving up big plays. Not only the 90-yard scoring bomb from Cunningham to Atwell against a confused ‘Cuse secondary in the second quarter, but Hassan Hall’s 70-yard kickoff in the third quarter following an Orange field goal, which not only injured punter/kickoff specialist Sterling Hofrichter, but one play later resulted in Cunningham’s fourth touchdown pass and the Cards fifth of eight scores in the game.
WHAT’S NEXT: The season finale and Senior Day at the Dome against Wake Forest next Sat., Nov. 30. The Orange won last year in Winston-Salem and are 5-3 versus the Demon Deacons dating back to 2006. Wake Forest (7-3, 3-3) hosted Duke Saturday evening. Game Time: 12:30 p.m. ET. TV: ACC Regional Sports Networks.