Monday, November 8, 2010

Orangemen fall to Cardinals

With a chance to clinch a post-season birth for the first time since 2004 in front of the home town fans, the Syracuse Orangemen dropped the ball (literally). After a lackluster performance in the first half, Syracuse still managed to go into the locker room up 17-14 at the break.

Unfortunately the Orangemen's shut down second half defense did not arrive in the Carrier Dome with their luggage following an extremely successful road trip, and the Louisville Cardinals dropped the Syracuse Orangemen 28-20 in the Dome in front of 40,735 fans.

Louisville jumped out to a 7-0 lead following a Ryan Nassib fumble that the Cardinals recovered at the Syracuse 41 yard line. Two plays later Jeremy Wright ran untouched 28 yards into the end zone with 6:08 left in the first quarter.

Just fifty-eight seconds later Ryan Nassib found Alec Lemon for a 51 yard touchdown strike to even the game at 7-7. After a great kick-off return by Dorian Graham that set Syracuse up at their own 44 yard line, Carter rushed for 5 yards and then Nassib found his receiver wide open down the middle of the field. For a football team searching for their first bowl game appearance since 2004, it was a tremendous response to the early score and got the Orange faithful back into the game.

Louisville answered on their next drive for another touchdown with 1:39 left in the first quarter. For a Cardinal team playing without starting QB Adam Froman and star Running Back Bilal Powell, it was a very impressive first quarter.

On the other hand, Syracuse committed 6 penalties for 47 yards just in the first quarter and were getting torched in the secondary by a backup quarter back who had only three starts in his career at Louisville.

The Orangemen would find a way to tie the game again on a 70 yard 4:53 drive in the 2nd quarter. With Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey leading the way down field, Syracuse was set up 1st and goal from the 8 yard line. Delone Carter took a Ryan Nassib hand off and scampered into the end zone to tie the game 14-14 with 5:42 left in the 1st half. For all the missed tackles and penalties Syracuse endured, the score was still tied and Syracuse seemed like they were going to make a game of it.

Syracuse got their first break of the game with 2:18 seconds left in the half. Mikhail Marinovich came off the end and absolutely obliterated Justin Burke, who fumbled the ball. Chandler Jones recovered the loose ball for a Syracuse first down at the Louisville 17 yard line. The Cardinals defense would hold and force Ross Krautman onto the field who drilled a 23 yard field goal attempt to give the Orangemen a 17-14 lead which they would hold into the half. As bad as Syracuse was performing, and with all the penalties adding up, the Orangemen still found a way to grab a half time lead and give the faithful hope that a bowl birth might be clinched on this day.

The second half would open with an illegal procedure penalty when Rob Long's kick off went out of bounds. Louisville got the ball at their own 40 yard line, and proceeded to run the ball down the throats of the Orangemen defenders. One can hardly imagine what the outcome of this game would have been like if Bilal Powell had played given the poor tackling by the Orangemen. It probably would have been a blowout. Jeremy Wright capped off the drive with his second touchdown of the game, this time from 12 yards out just 4:26 into the second half to give Louisville a 21-17 lead.

On the following Syracuse drive wide receiver Alec Lemon committed possibly the biggest gaffe of the season. Wide open at the goal line was Alec Lemon when Ryan Nassib hit him right in the numbers. Instead of catching the ball and walking with ease over the goal line the ball bounced off his chest, through his hands, and possibly off his foot onto the turf. Two plays later Ross Krautman came on and hit a 42 yard field goal to cut Louisville's lead to 21-20. That would essentially be the ball game. Instead of Syracuse jumping back out in front 24-21, Louisville still had the lead and Syracuse would never recover.

Louisville's ensuing drive put the nail in the coffin. After literally running through tackles and defenders who looked nothing like the team that knocked off West Virginia and Cincinnati on the road the two weeks prior, the Cardinals were faced with a 4th and 5 from the Syracuse 33 yard line and were going for it to open the 4th quarter. In weeks past the Orangemen's defense might have stiffled the attempt, however Andrell Smith snuck in between countless defenders who chose not to pick him up in coverage and caught a 12 yard pass to keep the drive alive and keep Syracuse on their heels. On the very next play Josh Chichester caught a 21 yard touchdown pass from Justin Burke and Louisville was on top 28-20.

Syracuse would get two drives to attempt to tie the game late in the 4th quarter however their play calling failed to give the Orangemen the first downs they needed. Ryan Nassib was unable to throw to the sticks on two consecutive 3rd down attempts and Louisville's defense held on to give the Cardinals their first road win in Big East play since 2007! Their first road win in 12 tries came against a Syracuse team that was just one win away from clinching a bowl birth for the first time since 2004.

It seemed as if the Orangemen walked into the Carrier Dome thinking that simply showing up would be enough to win the game against a depleted Cardinals team. The Cardinals, on the other hand, marched into the dome ready for a dog fight and gutted out an impressive victory.

However, the most disappointing thing about this game was the turnout from the Syracuse student section. There were two entirely empty sections of student-reserved seating which is baffling considering the high stakes up for grabs on this day. To the fans inside the Carrier Dome and watching at home, it was unconscionable.

The loss drops Syracuse to 6-3, 3-2 in the Big East and still very much alive in their quest to qualify for a bowl game. With three games left on the season, Syracuse needs just one win to earn a trip to a post-season game. Louisville improves to 5-4 on the season and 2-2 in Big East play.

Next week Syracuse will travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers University. The game will be televised on ESPNU and will kickoff at 3:30PM.

Game Notes:
  • Walk on Dorian Graham was very impressive in his kick returning job, averaging 26.5 yards per return.
  • Delone Carter rushed for 107 yards on 21 carries and 1 TD. It was his 10th career 100 yard rushing game.
  • Ryan Nassib finished with 155 passing yards on 19 of 32 passing attempts and 1 TD. He also lost one fumble.
  • Alec Lemon finished with 5 catches for 73 yards and 1 TD to lead the receivers.

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