On Saturday night, Syracuse kicked off its 2022 college football season against Louisville. SU rode a hot offensive start and did not look back, defeating the Cardinals, 31-7.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
#1. Garrett Shrader was in control
Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for an impressive 105 yards.
While Shrader was known for his running last season, rushing for 781 yards and 14 touchdowns, he also only completed 53 percent of his passes, the lowest in the ACC among qualifying quarterbacks.
But the fourth-year player worked with new offensive coordinator Robert Anae and quarterbacks coach Jason Beck in the offseason on his accuracy, and the results showed. He was 18 of 25 passing (72 percent), and even showed accuracy on his missed throws, with his WRs dropping three balls.
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said Shrader succeeded by “being the field general.”
“Being competitive and showing guys he’s willing to give it all up and end it right there to get a first down and win a game,” Babers said. “There is no doubt you can follow him because he shows you the right way.”
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#2: The win came at a potentially high cost
There was a collective gasp late in the second quarter when star running back Sean Tucker laid on the turf following a tough one-yard run and had to be helped off the field. To that point, Tucker had a dominant performance, with two TDs to go with 80 receiving yards and 34 rushing yards.
But Tucker would come back in for the second half to finish with 187 total yards and two touchdowns.
He was not the only player to get hurt.
Before Tucker, fullback Chris Elmore and linebacker Stefon Thompson suffered what appeared to be more serious lower body injuries in the first half. They emerged from the locker room after halftime in street clothes, and Elmore was using crutches. Neither played a snap in the second half.
Linebacker Marlowe Wax was also down for a period of time in the second half before walking off under his own power and later returning.
#3: Defense stifles Louisville
Early on, the game had the look of a shootout, with the two teams combining for three scoring drives in the game’s first four possessions.
Syracuse started with a field goal, and later followed with a touchdown to take an early 10-0 lead. But Louisville rallied behind a Tiyon Evans 36-yard run with 1:10 left in the first quarter to pull within 10-7.
As it turned out, that would be the only points the Cardinals would score all evening. The Syracuse defense was otherwise dominant against the Cardinals as Wax finished with 10 tackles, followed closely by Mikel Jones and Garret Williams both with nine.
Syracuse surrendered just 137 rushing yards, forcing Louisville QB Malik Cunningham to throw often. Cunningham struggled through the air, finishing with two interceptions and a fumble.
Cunningham was also consistently under duress, and was sacked three times. He finished with only 152 passing yards.
#4: Penalties are a concern
Syracuse’s offensive line appears to be still learning Anae’s new pro-style offense. The O-line was the culprit for a majority of SU’s 18 penalties for 107 yards. Many of them were on offsides or illegal formations.
The penalties started early. Midway through the first quarter, Syracuse started at its own 2-yard line and was able to march all the way to midfield before a series of penalties on the offensive line pushed them back to its own 41 yard line that resulted in a 4th and 16 punt.
“The penalties we have to clean up,” Shrader said. “I truly believe that we stopped ourselves when they really stopped us. We cleaned it up and just talking about the logistics, it won’t happen next week we will clean it up.”
#5: The Dome crowd was alive
Last season, the Orange didn’t win their first ACC game until late October. Beginning the 2022 season with a win against an ACC opponent bodes well for Syracuse’s confidence, and increases a margin of error to make a bowl game that was razor thin to start the year.
The JMA Dome crowd understood the urgency of needing to start the season with a win, and played a factor in causing several of Louisville’s seven penalties.
“I am really proud of Otto’s Army,” Babers said. “Them and the Syracuse community… wow. The noise level was through the roof and there is no doubt it effected a really special athlete in Malik Cunningham. I could not be more proud of the atmospher in the JMA.”
But the game was not sold out, and Babers issued a challenge to Syracuse fans who watched from home.
“Someone told me, ‘If you win, they will come,'” Babers said. “Well, we won.”