This one was never really in question. Even when junior Sean Riley fumbled the opening punt return, it never seemed like the Syracuse Orange (8-2, 5-2 ACC) could lose to the Louisville Cardinals (2-8, 0-7 ACC). And they didn’t, picking up a 54-23 victory. With that said, here’s what we learned from the win.
The run game was unstoppable
This one isn’t that surprising. Louisville is the third worst rush defense in the country, allowing 277 rush yards per game. The Cardinals, before today, had allowed 32 touchdowns on the ground in nine games. Junior Moe Neal erupted the middle for a 67-yard score and the Cardinals didn’t look shocked; this is what has happened to them all year long. Neal had another long rush early on in the third, setting up Dungey for his second score.
Still, the Orange deserve credit. SU recognized Louisville’s glaring weakness and exploited it, totaling over 200 yards and five scores (should sound familiar to last week).
If Syracuse is to take down Notre Dame next week, they will need the run game to show up. Of course, the Irish allow over 100 yards fewer per game than the Cardinals, so it will be more difficult. Yet, the Orange will have no shot of winning if Neal and senior Dontae Strickland are not bouncing off tackles, providing the Orange with as many yards as possible.
The run defense was not great
Perhaps the only major negative on the night, Louisville found success on the ground. The Cardinals totaled 203 yards on 39 carries. This is obviously skewed due to the 67-yard carry from Malik Cunningham, but that still should be taken into consideration.
The Syracuse run defense has not been spectacular against the run this season. Florida State and NC State are the only two ACC teams to not have a 100-yard rusher against the Orange. The Seminoles were behind most of the game and thus only ran the ball 23 times, while the Wolfpack tend to pass more than they run with NFL prospect Ryan Finley.
Facing Notre Dame and Boston College in the coming weeks, Syracuse will match up against, perhaps, two of the best rushing offenses on its schedule. Irish senior Dexter Williams has surpassed 100 yards in three of the five games he has played in this season and Boston College senior AJ Dillon looks healthy and fresh. The strength of the run defense will surely be tested against the Orange’s last two opponents.
This meant more than just a win on the schedule
There’s a reason the Carrier Dome was packed for a late season matchup against a struggling Louisville team. Tonight was senior night. Before the game, Dungey and the other seniors strolled out onto the field with their respective parents and received a standing ovation from the Syracuse faithful. Tonight was not about reaching a potential New Years six bowl or a preparation before Notre Dame, the main story from tonight is the senior’s final home game.
Babers talked on Wednesday about why tonight is so important.
“When you’re a senior, if you’ve ever been a senior, you’re playing your last game at your home site, you’ve bled for the team, if you’re a really good football player, you’ve probably broken some bones or torn a ligament for that team. It’s just one of those things that you’re going to always remember,” he said.
Tonight was the celebration of the senior’s journey. They overcame the messy exit of Scott Shafer and adjusted to a new and faster paced style. The blowout tonight was the coronation of their and the program’s progression.