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Syracuse football dropped its sixth straight game on Friday, falling to Louisville 30-0. The Orange forced three turnovers in the first half, but an inability to move the ball and two special teams turnovers prevented the Orange from keeping it close.
Here’s are three takeaways from the game:
Mental errors galore
SU couldn’t get out of its own way and committed eight penalties for 68 yards, including a Kingsley Jonathan facemask on a crucial second down, a perplexing delay of game after a kickoff and an offsides on an extra point. SU ranks No. 83 in the nation in penalties per game and averages over 60 penalty yards per game.
But it was turnovers that handed the Cardinals points. Nykeim Johnson fumbled on a kickoff return in the first half, giving Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham the ball inside the 30-yard line. Three plays later, Louisville stretched its lead from six to 13. Then, after a rushing touchdown from Cunningham, tight end Aaron Hackett dropped a short kick and handed the Cardinals possession.
Wide receiver Taj Harris dropped a catch that was thrown accurately into his chest, and the ball fell into the hands of Louisville defensive back Kei’Trel Clark. The Cardinals then marched down the field and kicked their second field goal of the game. What would’ve been a first down turned into points for Louisville.
One game after he impressed against Boston College, JaCobian Morgan took a clear step back. Morgan completed five passes for 40 yards and an interception. He was often left without time to throw or any open receivers. Morgan had the option of scrambling for little to no yards, throwing into a tight window or tossing it out of bounds. He opted to do the latter more often than not.
Against Boston College, Morgan moved the ball, completing 19 of 30 passes for 188 yards. While SU only scored 13 points, Morgan showed glimpses of his dual-threat potential. But that was never possible against Louisville, as he left injured in the third quarter after a blindside hit.
The run game was reliable early, as Sean Tucker tallied 93 yards. But the Orange were down 20 points at the half and had to throw the ball more often. Offensive line struggles continued, even as Patrick Davis returned from injury. Syracuse was shut out for the first time since 2016 and totaled 137 yards.
Defense runs out of gas, again
It’s a weekly tradition for Syracuse’s defense to start well before staying on the field for too many plays and failing to do enough to keep the Orange in the game. Syracuse allowed only three points in the first quarter, six in the game’s first 25 minutes. But after Johnson’s fumble, the Orange were left trying to defend a short field, and the Cardinals marched into the end zone.
SU’s offense has consistently failed to stay on the field long enough to provide the defense with enough rest. Opposing teams have had the ball for 11 minutes longer on average. For a young defense with little to no depth, that means true freshman — many of whom Babers admitted need to add weight to compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference — playing over 50 snaps a game. And, as seen against Louisville, the competitive level dips.
While the Orange forced three first half turnovers, they allowed over 400 yards, and the Cardinals only punted twice and scored on half of their drives. The Orange defense, who’ve consistently forced turnovers, spent too much time on the field and couldn’t do enough to keep SU close.
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