As the Remembrants said, your mother warned you there would be days like these. You’re familiar with the lyrics if you’re a Friends fan and you know the feeling if you’re a Syracuse football fan. The Orange defense took a slight step back and the offense failed to make up for it, denying 40, 375 fans the chance to celebrate SU’s first bowl berth since 2004.
Even without its starting quarterback Adam Froman and Bilal Powell, the Cardinal offense was able to figure out the typically-stifling Orange defense. Froman’s replacement, Justin Burke, was 13-25 with 143 yards passing, but it was the running game that helped win this game for Louisville. The Cards picked up 173 yards on the ground. Jeremy Wright lead the Cards rush attack with 98 yards and two touchdowns.
For Syracuse, it was really a story of wasted opportunity after wasted opportunity. Let’s relive a few big ones, shall we?
- In the first half, Louisville punter Chris Philpott punted the ball seven yards to the SU 48 yard line. Three plays later, Nassib was eating grass and fumbling the football because the offensive line failed to protect him–a common theme throughout the afternoon. It was the first of three sacks for the Cardinals. On the ensuing drive, Louisville scored a touchdown to go up 7-0. (SU tied it on its next drive, to be fair.)
- The Orange was flagged for 6 penalties for 64 yards in the first quarter. Yes, seriously. This killed two great returns to Dorian Graham and a big run by Delone Carter.
- At the end of the first half, Mikhail Marinovich sacked Burke in ridiculous fashion, forcing a fumble. This sack needs to get on youtube (of course, the “Orange Empire” aka the SU athletics department will probably yank in in .5 seconds). If you didn’t see it and SU athletics spoils your fun, let’s just say that it defines “no regard for human life!” Chandler Jones recovered it on Louisville’s 22. The offense got nothing going and Syracuse had to settle for a field goal. It put the Orange up 17-14, but after a remarkable sack like that and fantastic field position, it was a pretty discouraging “3.” You could tell Nassib agreed. The cameras cut to a visibly-peeved junior signal caller as Krautman & Co. hustled onto the field.
- Alec Lemon dropped two passes near or in the end zone on one drive in the third quarter. SU again had to settle for a field goal. Remember when I said that getting the ball into the end zone was a key to this game for Syracuse? Well, they couldn’t get it done and it’s a big reason why the Orange isn’t celebrating a bowl berth today.
This brings us to the fourth quarter, which featured some poor decision-making by Doug Marrone. With less than five minutes to go, the Marrone elected not to go for it on a 4th-and-3. Yes, the ball was on Syracuse’s own 42 yard line, but put the ball in Delone Carter’s hands and go for it. (Carter lead all rushers with 108 yards.) The Louisville running game had killed SU all day and now it was going to be able to kill the clock. Sure enough, it did. After Rob Long punted it away, Nassib wouldn’t have the ball back in his hands until there was 33 seconds left on the clock. Without a deep threat, there was really no way Syracuse was going to pull off a miraculous, Flutie-like comeback at that point. No guts, no glory for Marrone.
Louisville continued to run the football and take time off the clock, forcing Marrone to use up his time outs. He then pulled a Rex Ryan and treated his red flag like a toy in order to challenge the spot of the ball on a 4th-and-one. He lost the challenge and burned his final time out. Louisville got the first down on the next play. A few player later, when Philpott punted it more than 7 yards, SU would have to go on an 85-yard drive with 33 seconds to go and no time outs. It was a rare misstep for the future Big East Coach of the Year.
These are the things that are going to happen when you’re rebuilding. There are going to be days like today. Syracuse is going to go to a bowl game and the program is going to continue to get better. Be patient, Orange fans, and stop leaving games early. Have some faith and show some support.
About the Author
Written by Beth Ann Clyde
I graduated from Syracuse University in 2009 and can count the number of times I witnessed the Orange win a football game on two hands.