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Cardinal Sins: Poor Execution Costs Syracuse in 28-6 Loss to Louisville

It wasn't pretty. And it wasn't the outcome you wanted. But if you want another 700 words of masochism (You do!), well, here you have it.

Brett Carlsen

Terrel Hunt held his arms up in disbelief.  His last-ditch spike attempt at the end of the first half left no time on the clock to run a play from the Louisville 2-yard line.

It left the struggling quarterback with a frustrated feeling.

And once again, it left the Orange (2-3, 0-1 ACC) without any points in the red zone.

"It wasn't good enough," Scott Shafer said on his team's performance. "It wasn't good enough to get it done. So we have to go back to work and try to get it better. It's so simple it's hard to comprehend, but it the God's honest truth."

Hunt tried to spike the ball with two seconds left, but NCAA rules indicate that teams must have at least three seconds in order to execute the play before time runs out.  It wasn't the difference between winning and losing in Syracuse's 28-6 home defeat to Louisville (5-1), but it was one of many mental errors that contributed to it.

"If we had three (seconds), we probably would have had a shot there, but we came up short and didn't get it done," Shafer said.  "That's on me. Poor job by Coach Shafer on that one."

Hunt went 17-of-32 for 196 passing yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.  During Syracuse's now three-game losing streak, Hunt has thrown for four interceptions without any passing touchdowns. He's completed less than sixty percent in all of those games.  Even though he's not solely responsible for Syracuse's skid, his penchant for turnovers deserves some of the blame.

The latest interception gave Louisville the ball back, just one play after Cam Lynch forced a fumble.  Hunt's ineffectiveness kept the defense on the field for more than 60 percent of the game and put Syracuse in difficult situations.

"We just keep encouraging each other, not pointing fingers at each other," cornerback Brandon Reddish said. "We encourage each other and tell the offense that we've got their back and they got our back."

Throughout the week, Syracuse coaches and athletes stressed the importance of eliminating the mental mistakes.  They said the pre-snap penalties, the poor decision making and the turnovers from the last two weeks had to change, and this time, would change.  But the Orange only backed up that talk with more of the same.

When the Orange returned onto the field for the second half, the mental errors returned as well.  Syracuse caught Louisville by surprise when Prince-Tyson Gulley lofted a touch pass to Ben Lewis in the end zone. But the play was called back because Omari Palmer was ruled as an ineligible man down field.  Two plays later, the offense tried the trick play for a second time, again fooling the Cardinals defense. Jarrod West took the ball and spotted a wide open Ben Lewis in the right corner of the end zone.  This time, it was Lewis who dropped the ball.

"That has to be a play that's made 100 percent of the time," Lewis said afterwards.

And a playcalling faux paus by George McDonald only added fuel to the fire for his critics. Syracuse was backed up to its own 1-yard line.  Hunt, operating out of the shotgun, gave a pitch to the power running back Adonis Ameem-Moore.  The Cardinals stuffed Ameem-Moore for a safety, giving them a 9-3 lead with 11:59 left in the second quarter.

Hunt walked off the field slowly in the fourth quarter after taking a big hit.  Shafer couldn't offer any update on Hunt's injury status after the game, but said he never considered benching his starting quarterback.

The Orange will look to avoid a four-game losing streak next week, but the opponent - the Florida State Seminoles - hasn't lost since the 2012 season.  Still, the Orange is optimistic that better execution will lead to a better result.  Even though Syracuse faces Heisman-champion Jameis Winston, Lynch said he won't prepare any differently.

Said Lynch, "We are going to attack the week like we always do, execute the blitz like we always do, so next week hopefully we can get home and tackle him a lot."