“I think that when you are talking to the players, just like we have been all year, about concentrating on each play and to play out, give all your effort on each play and really focusing in. That’s what we try to do and not look ahead. I think when our players are truly focused and we are able to execute at the level we did today where obviously, there were some mistakes, then we are a good football team. I think that’s been a level when I’ve been up here from the fans and the letters that I get. I truly understand. It’s frustrating. I want to be able to celebrate this. Our kids did a nice job today. We need to get back to work and get ready to go and get ready to go back on the road again. Just for the moment, our kids executed well and played well. They feel good about themselves and they deserve that.” -Doug Marrone during the Syracuse-Louisville post-game press conference.
The Syracuse Orange handed the Louisville Cardinals their first lost of the season on senior day in the Carrier Dome, winning the game 45-26. The Orange led 31-10 at halftime, and never looked back. The win for Syracuse is their first over a top ten team since defeating Virginia Tech in 2002 in triple overtime.
It was a complete effort all across the board. The Orange had every facet of their offense working brilliantly. Ryan Nassib threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns in his Dome finale, with two of them going to senior Alec Lemon. The Orange running game was clicking as well, going for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Syracuse took advantage of nearly every opening Louisville gave them in the first half, putting up over 400 yards in the first 30 minutes against the Cardinals’ defense.
The two teams traded blows in the first quarter that ended in a 10 all tie before Syracuse blew the game wide open in the second quarter. The Cardinal defense seemed to have no answer for the running game, with gaping holes up the middle throughout the afternoon. Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson-Gulley both had touchdowns on plays right up the middle, followed by a missed tackle in the secondary. The Orange lead ballooned to 38-13 before the Orange began to take the air out of the ball in the second half. Doug Marrone said after the game that when all three phases of the game are clicking, they are very difficult to beat.
“Obviously, we are proud of how they played in all three phases. I don’t want to beat a dead horse. It just shows that when we have the capability of executing this way, we are a very good football team. That’s what we have to keep working on. We have two games left. I have a problem because I usually take away the victory quickly in my mind because I’m already going ahead. I don’t want to do that for these players. We just need to stay focused and just keep working and keep fighting. A lesson that you learn is that you just keep fighting. I have talked to the players, to the people who are very close to me, and shared this. Once the effort becomes so painful, and this comes from (Winston) Churchill, the person who pushes himself through it, will win. I really believe in that statement. I am proud of our coaches. I am proud of our players. I’m proud of our fans who were there today. It was a great crowd. They had a big thing to do with it (the win). I think we are all in the same thing. We are all fighting and we are all trying to get through this emotional pain. I think we did it and we won. We have to continue to do that for the next couple of weeks.”
For Louisville, their first loss of the season was a real head scratcher. Teddy Bridgewater was impressive as he has been all season, avoiding multiple sacks throughout the game while throwing for 424 yards and three touchdowns. The Cardinals lost leading rusher Senorise Perry on the first drive of the game to an injury, and the Cardinals were held to just 48 yards rushing. Syracuse dominated the line of scrimmage, forcing Bridgewater to throw the ball a lot in an attempt to find success offensively.
The win was absolutely huge for the Orange, as they are now just one win away from bowl eligibility. Syracuse heads to a Missouri Tiger team next week that is coming off of an overtime win over the Tennessee Volunteers. If the Orange can win that game, postseason play will be ensured. If not, the Orange still have another crack at it the following week against a weak Temple team who have struggled mightily in recent weeks.
It can’t be understated how big of a win this was for Doug Marrone and company, who have seemingly won every time their backs have been against the wall all season. Despite the mistakes this team has made in losses, a lot of credit should be given to the wins they have pulled off when they absolutely needed to. Aside from last week against Cincinnati, I can’t think of another time that fans looked a game that seemed absolutely critical to win and the Orange didn’t get the job done. At 1-3 on the season, Syracuse took care of business against a Pittsburgh team that they were evenly matched with. At 2-4, The Orange rattled off two wins including a gutsy comeback at South Florida. Whenever their season was on the line, the Syracuse football team came through and took care of business.
Now the Orange need to look ahead to Missouri and Temple. In my mind, this season has now become bowl game or bust for this team, as they have more than proven throughout the year that from a talent perspective they can hang with just about anybody. Missouri is coming off of a big win last week, but they have been less than impressive so far this season in the tough SEC conference. The Tigers are fighting for bowl eligibility as well, and at 5-5 overall and 2-5 in the conference, Missouri needs a win over the Orange to avoid making a season finale against Texas A&M (who are coming off of a victory at #1 Alabama) a must win for post season play.