In shutout loss to Louisville, Syracuse sinks almost as low as it can go

Babers+GaTech
Sep 26, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers looks on against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the first quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville kicked their second field goal of the game to extend their lead to 6-0 with 6:25 left in the second quarter. And then, things got bad for Syracuse.

The Orange (1-8, 1-7 ACC) fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, setting up a touchdown for the Cardinals (3-6, 2-6), then gave the ball back near midfield on downs and gave up another touchdown to the hosts before the half. SU then mishandled the pooch kickoff and only an interception by Ifeatu Melifonwu on a poorly-thrown pass saved them from falling into a bigger hole than the 20-0 one they were in at halftime.

The Cards did not ease up in the second half, coasting to a 30-0 home victory. Louisville dominated the night, running 79 plays compared to 41 for Syracuse and possessing the ball for 41:46 of the game. The Orange failed to convert a single one of their third down opportunities until the final play and finished the night with 137 yards of offense and seven first downs.

Louisville hurt themselves repeatedly in the first 20 minutes of action, mustering a field goal before the midpoint of the first quarter, but ending a couple other drives with turnovers. SU’s Garrett Williams caused the first one in the first quarter, deflecting a pass into the air, then gathering it in for an interception. Ja’Had Carter recovered a fumble early in the second quarter, stopping another Cardinal drive.

Louisville doubled their lead just past the midpoint of the second quarter, getting another field goal with 6:25 left before halftime. That remaining time would prove to be very eventful.

Nykeim Johnson fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Cards recovered at the SU 31. Six plays and less than three minutes later, the Cardinals were in the end zone, pushing their lead to 13-0.

Syracuse could not convert a fourth down just past midfield on their next drive and the hosts needed just five plays to move 51 yards for another touchdown. The extra point pushed their lead to 20-0 with 31 seconds on the clock.

» Related: Syracuse shut out by Louisville in road loss

Louisville opted for a pooch kickoff and Syracuse’s Aaron Hackett failed to cover it cleanly. The Cards recovered at the SU 35, but Ifeatu Melifonwu intercepted an underthrown deep pass two plays later, sending the game to half at 20-0.

The hosts added a touchdown midway through the third quarter to push their lead to 27-0 and tacked on a field goal early in the fourth to close the scoring.

Sean Tucker was the lone highlight for the Syracuse offense, turning 16 carries into 93 yards. Ifeatu Melifonwu and Garrett Williams each had an interception while Ja’Had Carter had a fumble recovery to go with his team-high eight tackles. Stefon Thompson had four tackles for loss while Geoff Cantin-Arku had a pair of sacks. Caleb Okechukwu also added a sack.

The Orange will close the home portion of their schedule next Saturday when North Carolina visits. The Wolfpack (5-3, 5-3) host #21 Liberty prior to their matchup with SU. Zonovan Knight leads the ‘Pack with 545 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

Game time and television coverage are yet to be confirmed for the Syracuse-NC State game.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 648 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.