It was a far cry from a perfect opener, but the Syracuse offense built an early lead, their defensive mates fended off a couple Louisville attacks, then the offense iced a 31-7 season-opening win with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. The Orange (1-0, 1-0 ACC) lost multiple starters in the game as fullback Chris Elmore and linebacker Stefon Thompson both watched the end of the game in street clothes, but still cruised to a victory.
Quarterback Garrett Shrader was in control of the SU offense throughout the game, dissecting the Cardinals’ defense both through the air and on the ground. Shrader was just shy of a personal best for the Orange by completing 72 percent of his passes (18-of-25) for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding 95 yards and another score on 16 carries. The signal-caller was dialed in all night, delivering passes on target for four quarters.
Syracuse scored on each of their first three drives, rolling up 224 yards of offense in the first 20 minutes of the contest. SU opened the contest with a 31-yard field goal from Andre Szmyt, then Shrader slipped a screen pass to Sean Tucker, who raced past the Louisville defense for a 55-yard touchdown with just over five minutes left in the first quarter. Tucker would add his second score of the night on a four-yard touchdown to cap the next drive and Szmyt’s extra point made it 17-7 less than five minutes into the second quarter.
The defense turned in the big plays of the third quarter. Cornerback Garrett Williams made a spectacular leaping interception in the end zone to end one Cardinal drive, then Derek McDonald shut down the next Louisville possession with a pick and 30-yard return with just 22 seconds left in the period.
Four plays after McDonald’s interception, Shrader found a wide-open Oronde Gadsden II in the end zone for an eight-yard score, pushing the Syracuse lead to 24-7 on the extra point less than two minutes into the fourth. Defensive end Steve Linton strip-sacked Lousiville quarterback Malik Cunningham and recovered the ball for the Orange on the next Cardinal possession, setting up one last scoring drive. This time, Shrader scrambled in from six yards out and the conversion capped the scoring with 8:40 remaining.
In addition to the injuries to Elmore and Thompson, Tucker and linebacker Marlowe Wax had injury scares, as well. Tucker was able to return to action, finishing the game with team highs of six receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown to go with 21 carries for 98 yards and another score on the ground. Wax suffered a right arm injury, possibly a stinger, late in the third quarter and did not return.