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Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 5:28 am

Louisville Runs Past Syracuse in 56-34 Win

By Sam Rothman

CitrusTV Football Reporter

LOUISVILLE, KY. — Let’s go back to Nov. 9, 2018. Syracuse had just wrapped up its regular season with a big win against Louisville, going undefeated in the Dome for the first time since 2001. The senior night victory capped off a special year for the Orange, especially for those seniors who watched the program struggle years prior.

Boy, what a difference a year makes. Tonight on the Cardinals’ senior night, Louisville (7-4, 5-3 ACC) piled up 608 yards of total offense as it ran over Syracuse (4-7, 1-6 ACC) 56-34. While the Orange finished second behind Clemson in the ACC last year, the Cardinals finished dead last, going 0-8 in conference play. This year, Syracuse sits in the basement of the standings, while Louisville is heading to a bowl game. The Orange had to win tonight to keep their own bowl game hopes alive. The Cardinals tarnished that chance in something called sweet revenge.

“I feel like last year they had a lot of athletes; they just weren’t as motivated as a team,” said Syracuse DB Andre Cisco. “Today, I felt like they were really motivated. The athletes all came
together. They played fast.”

Fast is an understatement. The Orange will go to sleep tonight, having nightmares of red jerseys darting past them down the field.

“These guys are like cheetahs,” said SU Head Coach Dino Babers. “You have to keep them bottled up because our guys can’t run with those guys. A lot of schools can’t run with those guys. It’s like a track team out there.”

Louisville sported a 12-personnel formation, similar to the ones Syracuse faced against Maryland and Boston College. The Orange allowed 650 yards against the Terps, while the Eagles racked up 691 yards of total offense. Cisco said that offensive look proves to be too much for the SU defense.

“The challenge with 12 personnel is just getting lined up to it and defending the run,” said Cisco. “You really have to have your eyes right and be able to come downhill and read the run. It seems like there is a lot going on when there are 12 personnel; that’s why there is a lot of moving bodies and one focus area in the box.”

It was a rough outing for Syracuse from the start. Louisville sprinted into the end zone three times in just the first quarter after the Orange didn’t allow a single touchdown last week against Duke. Louisville rookie running back phenom Javian Hawkins entered the game needing only three more yards to break the school’s single-season freshman record of 1,048 rushing yards set back in 2008. While he broke that tonight, Hawkins ended up setting a new record for himself as well with a career-high 233 yards on the ground.

The Cardinals punted just once in the opening frame, but they had the ball back in a matter of seconds thanks to a muffed punt from Sean Riley. Louisville quarterback Micale Cunningham finished it off with a 29-yard touchdown pass on the next play.

While Babers compared the Louisville offense to cheetahs, the Cardinals also proved their own name to be accurate as Micale Cunningham let the ball fly. He threw for 238 yards with five touchdown passes, another career-high. If Cunningham were Batman, Tutu Atwell would be his Robin. With 152 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard reception, the wide receiver reached the 1,000-yard mark; Hawkins and Atwell are now the first Louisville duo to have over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving since 1999.

While the Cardinals dominated play from the opening kickoff, the Orange made it interesting in the fourth quarter. Down by 15 with less than 10 minutes left on the clock, Jawhar Jordan burst down the sideline for an 81-yard gain. Syracuse needed just three more yards for a score. SU quarterback Clayton Welch, who replaced Tommy Devito late in the game, ran into the end zone himself. But, Trishton Jackson was called for holding, which erased the touchdown. The Orange followed up with two straight false starts. SU had a prime chance to make a comeback, but those penalties might’ve just cost Syracuse its chance at the postseason.

“It’s frustrating to get all the way down there and not get into the end zone,” said senior running back Moe Neal.

That series of events pretty much summed up the SU season. Syracuse entered the year with so much hope, ranked in the AP Preseason Poll for the first time since 1998. The Orange watched their season fade game by game, just like they did penalty after penalty tonight.

Last season, Syracuse’s seniors went out with a bang at home against the Cardinals. Just one year later, the Louisville veterans left Cardinal Stadium with an explosion.

The likely, final game for The ‘Cuse will take place back in the Salt City, as the Orange host Wake Forst on Saturday, Nov. 30. The game is senior day for Syracuse, and kickoff is slated for 12:30.

@samrothman_ | sbrothma@syr.edu