Friday night could’ve gone better for the Orange, no question about it. However, taking one look at the final score last night does not do justice to Syracuse’s play. Certainly the defense could’ve been better: too many players didn’t break down before tackling and wound up with nothing but a face full of turf beads. But the offense carried Syracuse for most of the game, keeping them within striking distance for far longer than anybody had expected.
If anyone outside the Syracuse fan base was asked if they thought that Babers and company would be within two touchdowns of Lamar Jackson’s Louisville Cardinals after three quarters of play before Friday night, it would be very difficult to find one that would say yes. Syracuse putting up four touchdowns against the 13th-ranked team in the nation is already impressive enough, but how they did it is also noteworthy.
They shoved the high-tempo offense so far down Louisville’s throat that on four separate occasions, Louisville players “went down with cramps” to slow down the Orange once they reached the red zone. All of them walked off on their own power—one player even jogged off—and all of them went back in quickly, sometimes after only one play. Two of those drives resulted in touchdowns, but one could imagine Syracuse would’ve had an easier time scoring had they maintained the tempo.
Speaking of which, Dino Babers wasn’t kidding when he said we would never see the team play as slow as they did against Colgate. After averaging a play every 22.5 seconds last week, they averaged a play every 18.4 seconds against Louisville. While the offense obviously hasn’t been fully installed yet, Syracuse seems to be making a lot out of what they have even with a lot of fresh faces.
This isn’t to say work doesn’t still need to be done. As Stephen Bailey of syracuse.com pointed out, 28 points won’t cut it against ACC big boys and likely won’t cut it in the make-or-break games for a bowl bid either. So while Syracuse still has some things to work out in their offensive game planning, they are without a doubt on the right track.