Syracuse eliminated from postseason contention with loss to Louisville

Moe Neal Louisville
Nov 23 2019; Louisville, KY, USA; Syracuse Orange running back Moe Neal (21) tries to break through the Louisville Cardinals line during the second quarter at Cardinal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

One week after looking like the team they were expected to be at the season’s outset, Syracuse returned to what they had been during the bulk of the campaign. The Orange (4-7, 1-6 ACC) fell behind early and simply could not stop Louisville, suffering a 56-34 road loss to the Cardinals (7-4, 5-3).

SU gave up a touchdown before the contest was five minutes old and trailed late in the first, 21-3. The Orange never got the margin into single digits after that, as they gave up 608 total yards and an eye-popping ten yards per play. Syracuse’s offense turned in one of their better statistical performances of the year, rolling up 261 yards on the ground and 510 total yards, the latter their best mark against a Power 5 team this season.

SU could not slow down either Malik Cunningham, who was responsible for a half dozen Cardinal scores, including five through the air, and Javian Hawkins, who ran for 233 yards and a touchdown.

Louisville scored on the game’s first possession, but Syracuse answered with a field goal on their first drive. Andre Szmyt’s kick was good from 33 yards just under seven minutes into the game as the Orange pulled within 7-3.

The SU defense got a stop, but Sean Riley fumbled the Cardinal punt, setting up the hosts at the Orange 29. The Cards’ Malik Cunningham dealt his second touchdown pass of the early minutes on the next play and Syracuse was in a 14-3 hole. SU went three-and-out on the next drive and Cunningham added a score on the ground on the next Louisville drive, pushing their lead to 21-3 with 1:15 left in the first quarter.

Syracuse was in chase mode from there. Their ensuing drive got results as Tommy DeVito connected with Aaron Hackett on a 20-yard touchdown pass. Szmyt’s kick clipped the Cards’ control to 21-10 just over five minutes into the second quarter.

» Related: Syracuse wins first ACC game of season, routing Duke

The Orange defense got a stop and DeVito connected with Trishton Jackson on a 48-yard pass to flip the field, but the SU offense stalled. Sterling Hofrichter’s punt pinned Louisville at their own six, but the hosts broke the game open with a 90-yard touchdown pass on their second play. The score put the Cards on top, 28-10, and they would hold that lead to halftime.

Syracuse scored on their first possession after halftime, getting another Szmyt field goal, this one from 46 yards, to draw within 15 points. Louisville came right back with a 70-yard return on the ensuing kickoff and touchdown pass on the following play, pushing their lead out to 35-13.

Moe Neal responded on the following drive, scampering for a 45-yard touchdown. Szmyt’s conversion was good, drawing the Orange within 35-20 just under five minutes into the third.

The Cardinals scored on their next drive, but SU responded once more. This time, Jarveon Howard had the scoring honors, capping the possession with a 16-yard rushing touchdown. Szmyt added the kick, making it a 42-27 game with a little over five minutes to go in the third.

The hosts added another touchdown late in the third, but Syracuse replied in kind once more. DeVito finished the drive by hooking up with Jackson on a nine-yard touchdown pass and Szmyt added another extra point to make it 49-34 less than 90 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Andre Cisco stoked the fires of an Orange comeback with an interception on the next Louisville play, giving SU possession at the Cards’ 29. The Syracuse offense could not move the ball, including reserve quarterback Clayton Welch, who came in on fourth down in place of DeVito and would end up finishing the game.

Welch would complete a pass to Jawhar Jordan that the freshman turned into an 81-yard game to the Louisville three-yard-line, but the offense failed in a pile of penalties and gave the ball back to the Cardinals just after the midpoint of the quarter. Louisville then drove for a touchdown to close the scoring.

Moe Neal was the driving force on the day for the Orange, piling up 163 yards on 20 carries with a score. The effort brought Neal to 2,462 career rushing yards, good for tenth place all-time at Syracuse. Freshman Jawhar Jordan hinted at the future with 87 yards receiving on a pair of catches, featuring an 81-yard catch-and-run. Andre Cisco led the SU defense with nine tackles and an interception.

Syracuse finishes their campaign Saturday when Wake Forest comes to the Carrier Dome. The Demon Deacons (8-3, 4-3) snapped a two-game losing streak on Saturday with a 39-27 victory over Duke.

Quarterback Jamie Newman paced the Deacs with 284 yards and a touchdown through the air and 144 yards and a score on the ground. Newman has 29 touchdowns on the season with 23 coming via the pass. Kenneth Walker III had 113 yards and a score against Duke and Kendall Hinton had six catches for 189 yards, including a 62-yard score.

The finale will get underway at 12:30pm Eastern and be televised by regional sports networks.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 586 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.