The University of Louisville football Cardinals rolled into the Carrier Dome in New York to take on the Syracuse Orange on its Senior Day. Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib mentioned in the media that the Cuse has never lost on Senior Day, so the Louisville locker room used that for bulletin board motivation. The defense forgot to read the sign, though, as the Cards go down to defeat for the first time this season 45-26.
Before the kickoff, ABC’s commentators mentioned Louisville sophomore Teddy Bridgewater in the same breath as the Heisman Trophy. They also talked about Charlie Strong as a possible Coach of the Year candidate. That’s the last positive thing they found to say about this Cardinal football team.
Syracuse marched the field early, playing off the energy in the stadium but the Cardinal defense stiffened in the red zone, the last time that happened all game, and the Orange had to settle for a field goal. The Louisville offense put together a more sustained, ball control type of drive with runs and short passes. The Card faithful held its collective breath when Senorise Perry writhed on the ground in pain. He didn’t return to the game. That drive finish with a Cardinal field goal.
And then there’s the special teams. Debacle doesn’t even begin the cover it. A Scott Radcliff muffed punt negated a three and out by the Cards and put the Orange in scoring position immediately. At that point, Syracuse ran it into the end zone with Prince-Tyson Gulley. A big pass interference call kept that drive alive and coach Strong made his feelings known, intensely, to the offender, freshman linebacker Keith Brown.
Louisville answered with a 53 yard touchdown throw to Corvin Lamb, his first pass of the year. An up and down first quarter kept Syracuse and Louisville fans on the edges of their respective seats.
The Orange opened the second quarter with an easy touchdown pass to Alec Lemon with Cardinal cornerback Andrew Johnson hopelessly out of position. From there, the Syracuse offense began a rhythm that the Louisville secondary. Alec Lemon caught 2 Nassib TD passes in the first half.
The defensive woes on the Cardinal side of the ball, led to the deflation of momentum for Bridgewater and crew. As much as you wanted the offense out there to keep the shaky defense off the field, they couldn’t sustain very long. And every time the defense played, they couldn’t get it done. Bridgewater drove the team down the field to score on a field goal. The Cards went into the locker room at the half down 31-13.
Louisville went three and out at the opening of the third quarter, complicated by a poor 33 yard punt by Ryan Johnson, giving the ball back to a rolling Cuse offense. The home team capitalized on a Jerome Smith 35 yard touchdown run to go up by 25 early on. Defensive adjustments at halftime had no effect. Charlie Strong has said all season that his team hasn’t yet played a 60 minute game. This time around, they didn’t even play a 10 minute game.
Is it time for Louisville’s highly touted defensive coordinator Vance Bedford to admit his current defense with its current players doesn’t work in its current configuration? Is it time for special teams coach Kenny Carter to spend extra time with his squad to remind them that they’re playing a tackle game rather than flag football?
Bridgewater put on his Superman cape and tried to get it going, but the defense and special teams put him in such a big hole that even Teddy Ballgame couldn’t make it happen, tossing an interception to Dyshawn Davis to close it for Louisville. In the end, the Cards couldn’t run effectively without Senorise Perry, which made them one dimensional and easy to defend. Despite that last minute miscue, Bridgewater finished the game with 422 yards through the air and 3 touchdowns.
The Cards go down for the first time this year and Syracuse still hasn’t lost on Senior Day.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton