Syracuse football loses sixth straight to Louisville 30-0

Football loses to Louisville 30-0

The Orange failed to put up any points in Friday's contest, marking the first shutout loss in four seasons for Syracuse.
Published: November 20, 2020
Syracuse at Louisville
Syracuse Orange quarterback JaCobian Morgan (15) throws a pass during the first half of play at Cardinal Stadium.

Traveling to Kentucky for a Friday night game, Syracuse dropped its sixth consecutive game with a 30-0 loss to Louisville – the team’s first shutout loss in four seasons.

The Orange ended their first four drives with three punts and an interception. The team finished 1/10 on third down conversions, adding to their woes for the season. The team ranks 121st in the FBS with a 23.9% conversion rate on third downs.

Syracuse found limited success in the game, but running back Sean Tucker compiled 93 yards on 16 carries for the game. The freshman ballcarrier missed the team’s last game against Boston College and said he used that time and the bye week to get back to “100%.”

In the team’s press conference leading up to the game, Tucker was lukewarm on his season performance to date.

“Personally, I just think I could’ve done, and can do, a lot better than that, and I plan on it,” Tucker said. “(I’m) just coming out trying to practice harder, learn the plays even better and just get more reps to do better in these next games to help my team win.”

The strength of the Syracuse defense has been their ability to force turnovers. The team entered the contest tied for second in the FBS with 17 turnovers. The Cardinals came in with 18 turnovers and a turnover margin that tied them for 120th in the country. The Orange forced Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham into three early turnovers but were unable to capitalize.

Syracuse at Louisville
Syracuse Orange running back Sean Tucker (34) rushes past Louisville Cardinals defensive back Isaiah Hayes (33) during the first half of play at Cardinal Stadium.

Garrett Williams hawked a Cunningham pass when he tipped the ball to himself on a fully extended pass break up. The redshirt freshman timed his deflection and kept his knee off the turf to complete the acrobatic effort. A few drives later, linebacker Mikel Jones forced a Cunningham fumble to stall a long Louisville drive. Just before the half, Ifeatu Melifonwu picked off Cunningham to prevent another Cardinals scoring drive.

In the first half, Louisville kicker James Turner converted two field goals, one a career long of 50 yards. Running back Jalen Mitchell ran in a four-yard score and Cunningham added a four-yard rushing touchdown of his own.

Syracuse’s offense and special teams did their defense no favors in the first half and turned the ball over three times. In his second career start, quarterback JaCobian Morgan was picked off when his pinpoint pass slipped through the fingers of receiver Taj Harris. For the kickoff team, Nykeim Johnson and Aaron Hackett both fumbled following Louisville scores.

The Cardinals held the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half to the tune of a 20-0 lead as the Orange sputtered to 91 total yards on offense. Morgan and the offense failed to convert a single third down for the half.

Earlier in the week, defensive end Kingsley Jonathan said that despite their record, the defense has been growing and improving throughout the season. Foreshadowing another game in which the offense’s struggles negatively impacted the scoreboard, Jonathan spoke of the defense’s mental toughness.

“We don’t quit,” Jonathan said. “Regardless of where we are in the game, where we are in the season, we’re in there to fight. We’re in there to try not to give up points on defense. That’s something that’s never going to change, regardless of what is going on. I’m proud of the guys that they keep fighting.”

Syracuse at Louisville
Syracuse Orange wide receiver Nykeim Johnson (4) returns a kickoff during the first half of play at Cardinal Stadium.

The disparity in time of possession wore out the Syracuse defense throughout the game. The Cardinals had the ball over 41 minutes while Syracuse came in under 19 minutes. Both teams were safer with the ball in the second half, but the Cardinals accumulated 413 yards for the game.

Louisville rounded out the scoring with another field goal and a 19-yard touchdown pass from Cunningham to 2019 ACC receiving yards leader Tutu Atwell. In last season’s matchup, Atwell hauled in five passes for 152 yards and two scores. Questionable coming into the game, Atwell’s only reception was his touchdown grab.

For the Orange, this game serves as a microcosm of their entire season. The defense turned the opposing team over early and often, but a lack of offensive consistency led to a lopsided final score. The offensive line allowed Morgan to take multiple hits, and an injury forced Rex Culpepper to finish the game in his stead.

With the loss, Syracuse football now sits at 1-8 on the season. Two games remain for the Orange to bail water on their sinking season, and with a matchup looming against No. 2 Notre Dame in two weeks, the team will look to right the ship next Saturday against NC State in their last game in the Carrier Dome. A time will be announced later for the game.

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is a magazine, news and online graduate student and contributor for The NewsHouse.