Here are four observations from Syracuse's 41-17 loss to Louisville at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Saturday.
Up 10-7 with under six minutes to play in the second quarter, Syracuse looked poised to enter halftime with a surprising lead. The Orange even had possession, facing a second-and-1 with the ball at their own 36-yard line. But on the very next play, SU quarterback Eric Dungey was intercepted by Louisville cornerback Trumaine Washington, who scampered 39 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. The ensuing extra point gave the Cardinals a 14-10.
Dungey and Co. then went three-and-out on their next drive, being forced to punt the ball away. And even though SU punter Riley Dixon pinned the Cardinals at their own 11-yard line, it didn't matter; they needed just two minutes and nine seconds to find the end zone again, taking a 21-10 lead into halftime.
Coming out flat
After a competitive first half, Syracuse played incredibly flat in game's final 30 minutes. If not for a garbage time touchdown pass from Zack Mahoney to Steve Ishmael, the Orange would have been outscored 20-0 in the second half.
In order, here were the results of each of SU's offensive drives in the half: missed field goal, punt, punt, turnover on downs, fumble, interception, punt and touchdown. That's not great.
Meanwhile, Louisville scored on four of its six second half possessions.
With the Cardinals up 7-0 and driving again in the first quarter, Louisville quarterback Kyle Bolin overthrew his target and was intercepted by SU cornerback Cordell Hudson. Two plays later, Syracuse's Ervin Philips registered a 10-yard touchdown run.
Later in the half, Louisville trailed 10-7 but had the ball near Syracuse's goal line as it looked to re-take the lead. But on second-and-goal, SU linebacker Zaire Franklin stripped the ball from running back Jeremy Smith and the Orange recovered the fumble.
But as crucial as those turnovers were at the time, the Cardinals forced turnovers that were arguably even more game-altering. In addition to the pick-six Dungey threw to Washington, he also had two other giveaways that led to Louisville scores.
With SU down 31-10 in the third quarter, he was stripped of the ball as he scrambled up the middle, and Louisville linebacker James Burgess returned it to the Orange's 12-yard line. Bolin then found Keith Towbridge alone in the upper left corner of the end zone on the next play.
And on SU's very next possession, Dungey was picked off by Cardinals linebacker Trevon Young, who returned it inside Syracuse's 10-yard line, setting up a Louisville field goal.
Dungey injured: What was Shafer thinking?
With Syracuse trailing 41-10 late in the fourth quarter, there was really no reason for Dungey to be in the game. But, inexplicably, SU head coach Scott Shafer left him out there nonetheless, leaving some to question the decision.
Why is Dungey still in this game?— John Cassillo (@JohnCassillo) November 7, 2015
Moments later, this happened:
Dungey took a big hit at the end of that run to the shoulder/collarbone area. Lying on the ground rolling his legs.— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) November 7, 2015
Injured Syracuse QB Eric Dungey is leaving early for the locker room.— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) November 7, 2015
Remember, this is a player who already missed a game this season with what was almost certainly a concussion. Not only that, but he's taken a number of big hits throughout the year, including one against Pittsburgh two weeks ago that forced him to leave the game and go through a concussion protocol. Why Shafer would leave him in the game at such a meaningless point is pretty head-scratching, to say the least.