From the Press Box: Orange Deal Undefeated Cards A Beating

Syracuse Orange safety Durell Eskridge (3) , offensive lineman Jason Emerich (78) and linebacker Oliver Vigille (7) celebrate with fans after defeating the Louisville Cardinals in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse won the game 45-26. - © Mark Konezny

In front of a national TV audience, on senior day and homecoming weekend, would the Orange step up against undefeated Louisville or watch their postseason chances wither away?

With only three games left in the regular season, the Syracuse Orange came into Saturday afternoon’s game with a 4-5 record and in need of two wins in their final three games to become eligible for a bowl. I was in the Carrier Dome press box to witness the 45-26 victory, and here’s a bullet points-style recap of what I saw:

- Before the game even started, Syracuse had an unforced error as the national anthem singer’s mic was off until about two-thirds of the way through the song. Luckily this wasn’t an omen of bad things to come.

- The Orange offense started the game on fire, with a series of Jerome Smith runs setting up a long Ryan Nassib pass to Kobena. Unfortunately they sputtered out from there, setting for yet another Krautman field goal in the red zone. Luckily they would solve their red zone problems by basically having every scoring play be longer than 20 yards. Your red zone offense can’t falter if you don’t use it!

- Orange CB Ri’Shard Anderson made a great one-on-one stop of a Teddy Bridgewater pass to save a touchdown near the end of the first quarter. That forced a field goal, and the score was tied at 3-3. Just one of many key plays the SU defense made throughout the afternoon.

- The Orange did nothing offensively on the ensuing possession, but a dropped punt by Louisville’s Scott Radcliff was recovered by Lewellyn Coker at the UL 24 yard line. That wouldn’t be the last time we heard Coker’s name.

- Syracuse took advantage of the Louisville miscue as Prince-Tyson Gulley scores on an 8 yard run to give the Orange a 10-7 lead with about 3:13 to go in the first quarter.

- Faster than it took me to type this sentence, Louisville RB Corvin Lamb took a short dump-off pass from Bridgewater and ran it 53 yards for a TD. Just like that, the score was tied at 10. During that drive Bridgewater showed serious quickness and athleticism by escaping a near-certain sack and extending the drive for the Cardinals.

- After an eventful possession where SU went for it (and made it) on 4th down deep in Louisville territory, and Nassib had a near-interception bounce off the hands of a Cardinal DB, Nassib hit Alec Lemon in the end zone for a touchdown to make it 17-10 SU.

- I noticed that the crowd was really into the game from start to finish. There were several big defensively plays where the Dome was as loud as I’ve heard it in years, for football or basketball.

- Nassib and Lemon connect on a pair of long passes in the second quarter, including a 27 yard TD to put the Orange up 24-10. That was Nassib’s 20th TD pass of the season (he would add one more), and his second hookup with Lemon.

- With his first TD pass to Lemon, Nassib leapfrogged Donovan McNabb to become Syracuse’s second all-time leading passer by yardage. He now sits only six yards behind the top QB, Marvin Graves. Did anyone see this coming when Nassib was backing up Greg Paulus three years ago?

- Late in the second half, Nassib threw a deep sideline bomb to Lemon, who couldn’t haul it in after it hit him in the hand. It would have been a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch, but I think it was an NFL-level throw by Nassib. Who here thinks he could make a living on Sundays?

- A play later, Prince-Tyson Gulley streaked up the right sideline for a 55-yard TD run. The Orange offense was clicking on all cylinders as they went into halftime up 31-10. SU’s offense looked confident and was rolling. Louisville appeared rattled and dysfunctional.

- The second half started with more of the same. After Louisville punted on their first possession, Jerome Smith trucked the ball in from 35 yards out to push the SU lead to 38-13. The SU defense then forced the Cardinals to punt on their next possession.

- The game had gotten so out of hand that at about 7:00 remaining in the third quarter fans started a wave that lasted for a couple of minutes. Serious question… how do you all feel about the wave at Dome games? Yea or nay? (Ed. The correct answer is nay).

- Louisville got on the board in the second half with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to Eli Rogers, but even amongst the clouds, SU got a ray of sunshine as SU’s Eric Crume blocked the PAT attempt to keep the score at 38-19.

- Ryan Nassib broke the Big East’s all-time completions record at the end of the 3rd quarter, giving him 736 at that point in the game.

- At the beginning of the 4th quarter SU Athletics announced that Ashton Broyld was out for the remainder of the game with the notorious “Lower Body Injury”. That’s something we’ll want to keep an eye on throughout the week.

- After Deon Goggins laid a bone-crunching hit on Rogers, Dyshawn Davis ended the last Louisville scoring threat with an interception to ice the game for SU. The Orange spent the remaining four minutes running out the clock to seal the win.

- Orange fans even broke out “Na na na na, hey hey hey” and “Let’s Go Orange” chants for the Cards with less than a minute left. Everyone was in a good mood as they left the Dome Saturday afternoon.

- The Orange finished the game with great offensive balance, rushing for 278 yards and passing for 246. Nassib led the way, going 15-23 with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Lemon caught 9 balls for 176 yards and 2 TDS, while Smith ran 18 times for 144 yards with one score and Gulley added 98 yards on 15 carries and two TDs.

- After the game, Doug Marrone was anxious to heap praise on his team for the big win, particularly singling out the play of seniors Nassib, Lemon, Shamarko Thomas, and Marcus Sales. He said he would let the team enjoy the win for a short while, but then they would get back to work and start preparing for Missouri next week.

- Marrone mentioned how nice it was to have so much depth at running back, and Smith said that the guys are always pushing each other to make the unit better. Marrone agreed with a reported who mentioned how successfully they balanced the run and pass, saying "winning on first and second down allows them to win on third down."

- Marrone ended his press conference by extolling the virtues of his quarterback, listing Nassib's accomplishments on the field and in the classroom.

Jeremy Ryan is a writer/editor for CNYcentral.com in Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyRyan44.

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