‘Cuse crushes Cardinals in football season opener
'Cuse crushes Cardinals in season opener
The Orange landed a primetime matchup Saturday against Louisville at the loud house and did not disappoint.
The Syracuse defense was all over Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham from the word “go.” They knew they could not give him any room to breathe. Syracuse Head Coach Dino Babers gave credit to the fans, especially the student section, for bringing it during the game.
“There is no doubt that it affected a really special athlete in Malik Cunningham,” Babers said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the atmosphere that was inside the JMA.”
The energy in the JMA Wireless Dome was infectious long before kickoff. The Orange got the first crack on offense. Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader got the crowd going early, but the Orange settled for three on the opening drive.
Louisville was forced to punt on its first drive, and that set the tone for the entire game. The crowd caused the Cards to false start early on. Syracuse wideout Devaughn Cooper made a great catch while falling and made another nice grab to keep the drive going to go along with an offsides call on the Cardinals’ defense.
The drive was capped by Syracuse running back Sean Tucker with a 55-yard touchdown catch on a screen pass where he was lined up as a receiver. Louisville was able to answer with a 36-yard rushing touchdown scored by Tiyon Edwards.
Syracuse fullback Chris Elmore got injured early in the first and was seen on crutches going back to the locker room. He did not return to the game, and Coach Babers did not provide an update. The first quarter ended with Syracuse up 10-7.
Shrader was able to keep making plays with his legs, including a 24-yard escape rolling right. Cooper made another catch to help set up a four-yard touchdown run from Tucker again to make it 17-7. Louisville tried to get back in it with a double-pass play. Braden Smith made a great throw. Again, it seemed the crowd noise got to Cunningham and the offense, causing another false start and forcing a timeout. Cunningham was denied on a fourth down keeper, which turned it over on downs.
The next Orange possession started strong, only to get stalled due to Tucker getting shaken up, a false start, and a snap infraction. The Orange defense took a hit with an injury to linebacker Stefon Thompson who did not return.
Louisville right tackle Renato Brown got disqualified for targeting on a blindside block. Tucker was not on the field for the final drive of the half, and Syracuse was not able to get anything going. It was 17-7, with Syracuse leading at halftime.
Thompson did not return to the game, without an update given on his status. The Cardinals’ offense had some good plays, but run stuffs and a key sack shut them down. Tucker came back and showed his burst, but the Orange offense sputtered out.
Louisville bounced back and looked poised to score after a big gain from Ahmari Huggins-Bruce. It looked like Cunningham had a wide-open man on a post route in the end zone, but Garrett Williams played the role of Superman and flew in for the pick. Babers was feeling deja vu on the play after being on the wrong end of it so many times.
“It was just one of those plays that we said we can’t let this play beat us again,” Babers said.
The interception became the first turnover of the game. Before the quarter ended, Syracuse linebacker Derek McDonald picked off Cunningham to set up the offense in the red zone.
Shrader stayed hot with a wide-open touchdown pass to Oronde Gadsden II. Moments later, the Syracuse defense struck again, landing another sack and another turnover. Shrader got denied on a keeper due to a false start but ran in from six yards to make up for it.
The offense finished with over 400 total yards, including 237 passing yards from Shrader. Tucker got a curtain call and finished his night with 98 yards on the ground, 85 in the air, and got home twice. Shrader asked the crowd for one more hand before the clock hit triple zeros on a 31-7 route.
“This is the bully that has beaten you up three times in the courtyard, and you haven’t eaten in a while,” Babers said about the recent struggles against Louisville. “He’s taken your money, he’s taken your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and you’re getting skinny and you need something to eat. It was great to finally get an opportunity to win a game against them.”
The Orange will next play on the road against UConn this Saturday at 7 p.m.