The Syracuse Orange took a punch on the chin this week, losing 30-0 to the Louisville Cardinals. The Orange only mustered 137 yards on the day, with 92 of those coming on the ground. Sean Tucker didn’t crack the 100-yard mark, with 95 yards on the day, but was the sole source of offensive light for the squad.
Turnovers set the tone of the game, but not how we expected.
The Orange knew turnovers would be a key to this game going in. Unfortunately the Cardinals took advantage of the turnovers they forced more. In the first half, while Louisville and Syracuse tied the turnover battle, the Cards definitely won the points off turnovers. While Garrett Williams had a great return on his interception and the other two takeaways for the Orange kept Louisville out of the end zone, it was all for naught, as Jacobian Morgan and the offense couldn’t make any points out of the opportunities.
On the other side, Louisville took all three Syracuse turnovers and turned them into some sort of points. The Morgan interception was turned into a Turner field goal, the Nykeim Johnson fumble on his kick return resulted in a Mitchell touchdown run up the middle and while the Aaron Hackett fumble on his kickoff return attempt didn’t result in points, it put the Orange on the back foot more than they needed to be going into the half.
All in all an “even” turnover battle couldn’t have gone worse for the Orange, with at least a ten point swing off of them, giving themselves no benefit. Even without any turnovers after halftime, the tone was set and the game was settled.
Veteran mistakes were a big issue for the Orange.
Over the course of the season it’s been a known quantity that Syracuse is an inexperienced team that is relying on a lot of very young players. This game, some of the issue was from the veterans on the squad, making youthful mistakes. In the first half, Jacobian Morgan’s interception was a function of the ball going directly through Taj Harris’s hands. That was a catch that the junior wideout needs to make or at least misdirect.
On kickoff returns, the two aforementioned turnovers by Johnson and Hackett are two plays that just can’t happen, especially by experienced players. Neither were plays that needed to happen and while Johnson was trying to hit a seam, he needs to protect that ball. Hackett is slightly more defensible, as he was coming up on a pooch kick, but he still needs to come down with that ball or find a way to cover.
On the offensive line, Airon Servais was beaten by a speed rush that lead to the Jacobian Morgan fumble and injury. The redshirt senior looked inside before chasing after the speed rusher outside, when Darius Tisdale was covered by a man that he likely had responsibility on. Without knowing the protection scheme, it seems like there’s not much that would have made that man not his responsibility.
While the youth has impressed to a degree, the veterans on the squad left a little to be desired, from what has been expected from them in this game.
Bye week preparation is again lacking.
The Orange showed similarly, earlier in the year, that coming off of a bye week didn’t mean that the team would be more prepared, against Duke. The trend continued against the Cardinals. Traditionally, coming off the extra rest and preparation, a team would be more impressive than they were the prior week, able to heal up and watch film. After both bye weeks this season, the Orange have laid an egg.
While the defense looked solid on the day, the offense wasn’t able to take advantage of the extra prep time and looked downright unpolished. Coming out of a bye, this should be unacceptable, no matter the situation.