With a highly-anticipated matchup against Notre Dame coming up this Saturday, the Orange could’ve easily looked past the Cardinals. But after a slow start in the first quarter, the proverbial dam broke and consumed the Cardinals, leaving them down 30 points at half. It never got any better for them from there.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest plays of the day, with gifs:
1. (11:32 - 1st) 3rd & 11 at Syracuse’s 44-yard line: Following a muffed punt by Sean Riley, Louisville was gifted with great starting field position for their second drive of the game. The Cardinals lack of discipline on both sides of the ball reared it’s ugly head early in this one as they were flagged twice, the second one a false start which turned a third and manageable to a third and long. Jawon Pass couldn’t evade the Orange front four who would stop him at the line of scrimmage and forcing a punt.
2. (5:25 - 1st) 3rd & 8 at Syracuse’s 30-yard line: More than halfway through the first quarter had come and gone, yet the Orange offense hadn’t found themselves on Louisville’s side of the field. This opening stanza was shades of the first quarter at Wake Forest last Saturday. What was a great start to the drive was nullified after a personal foul penalty which brought the ball from the 17-yard line to the 32. Chris Slayton and Johnathan Kingsley would team for the second sack of the possession to force a long field goal from the 33.
3. (9:28 - 1st) 4th & 11 at Syracuse’s 33-yard line: The Syracuse Orange’s special teams are widely regarded as one of the best units in the nation, if not the best (Bill Connelly’s numbers have said No. 1 for virtually the entire season). In this instance, they turned defense into offense when Josh Black swatted Blanton Creque’s attempt from the 50 rolling onto the turf where Antwan Cordy picked it up for a 31-yard return to the Louisville 41.
4. (9:28 - 1st) 2nd & 4 at Syracuse’s 18-yard line: Better late than never as the sports car we’ve known as the Syracuse offense finally got warmed up. On the first play of the drive after the blocked field goal, Eric Dungey found Riley for a 37-yard pass down to Louisville’s 4. The play action was executed so well that even the cameraman thought Chris Elmore had the ball. Jarveon Howard would punch it in from the goal line two plays later for his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.
5. (9:17 - 2nd) 2nd & 3 at Syracuse’s 33-yard line: This drive epitomized what “Orange is the New Fast” is supposed to be about. Before the Louisville defense could collect their breath after Dungey’s scamper, Darius Quantavious “Moe” Neal hit the hole for a 67-yard touchdown run. It was Syracuse’s longest run from scrimmage in 2018.
6. (9:01 - 2nd) 2nd & 10 at Louisville’s 18-yard line: When it rains, it pours and for Louisville, it has been monsoon season. In what was an unforced error, Pass fumbles the ball on the hand off during a zone read. Alton Robinson pounced on the loose ball for the recovery and Andre Szymt knocked through his second field goal of the night.
7. (7:47 - 2nd) 2nd & 7 at Louisville’s 28-yard line: Syracuse has a penchant for knocking opposing quarterbacks out of a game (legally), and on Saturday, they added another name to the list in Malik Cunningham. With Cunningham’s departure, (now-former) Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino had no choice but to sub Pass back in. Not living up to his namesake, Pass airmailed a throw to Andre Cisco who collected his fifth interception on the year.
8. (5:30 - 2nd) 2nd & 14 at Louisville’s 21-yard line: Note: This isn’t a replay. Jawon Pass would add to his long night with an unforced fumble on a scramble out of the pocket for his third giveaway for the game.
9. (2:46 - 2nd) 2nd & 4 at Syracuse’s 18-yard line: Having seen enough of what Pass did during his time on the field, Petrino opted to give his walk-on quarterback a shot as his starter wasn’t getting the job done. Unfortunately for Bobby, gasoline was thrown onto the fire as Sean McCormack was intercepted on his first collegiate throw by Kielan Whitner. Christopher Frederick had found his way into the backfield off the edge, forcing the QB into a bad throw. The Orange would take full advantage of this miscue by putting six on the board instead of three.
10. (15:00 - 3rd) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 25-yard line: During halftime Louisville may have packed it in as on the first play of the third quarter they were caught asleep at the wheel. Moe Neal almost had his third touchdown of the night, and the second of the longer variety. Dungey would pick up his second rushing score from one yard out just a few plays later.
11. (9:28 - 1st) 2nd & 4 at Syracuse’s 18-yard line: The Syracuse defensive line continued their reign of terror on the Louisville backfield as Alton Robinson made quick work of the Cardinals right tackle to bring down Pass. The defensive end notched his ninth sack of the season in this game which is as many as Louisville’s entire defense has on the year.
12. (2:02 - 3rd) 1st & 10 at Louisville’s 21-yard line: While Brian Ward couldn’t have been happy that his unit allowed Louisville to get on the board in the second half, this deflection from Cisco and Trill Williams in coverage of Tutu Atwell could be a glimpse of a Syracuse future “No Fly Zone.”
13. (9:28 - 1st) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 22-yard line: At this point of the game, Coach Babers probably wasn’t too excited to see his star quarterback relive the Miami game by giving the Louisville defender one of Sagat’s (of Street Fighter) flying knees.
14. (13:54 - 4th) 2nd & 11 at Syracuse’s 35-yard line: Similar to the Wake Forest game, Dungey didn’t have his best night through the air, but this pass to Nykeim Johnson on the same route run against NC State sealed his final game at the Carrier Dome with a kiss. He will have to make throws with this level of accuracy against the Fighting Irish for Syracuse to pull off the upset.
In what may have been a payback game for what Louisville did over the past two seasons, Syracuse returned the favor and then some. ESPN showed mercy on the Cardinals and their fan base by switching to the Fresno State-Boise State match midway into the fourth quarter (toss the remaining, happy Orange fans over to ESPNEWS).
The trouncing by the Orange was appropriate on Senior Night of all games, as this group that had been through a coaching change and three consecutive losing seasons (there was a fourth before most of them arrived on campus, too) closed out the year being undefeated at home. The margin of victory would serve as the final nail in Petrino’s coffin as the long-time SU nemesis was relieved of duties over the weekend.
With Louisville now in their rearview mirror, all eyes are on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in what will be a game with major implications for both teams’ respective postseason fate. The 12th-ranked Orange can move into the Top 10, and inch closer to a New Year’s Six bowl game with a victory.