Louisville looks to improve fortunes at Syracuse in key ACC matchup
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- When Syracuse faces Louisville Friday night in the Carrier Dome, somebody is going to come away with momentum, and someone is going to head into their toughest schedule portion with ground to make up.
For Syracuse, it's finally the beginning of ACC play. Riding a two-game losing streak and with a grueling schedule ahead, Syracuse (2-2) is hoping to to deal another blow to the Cardinals (4-1, 2-1 ACC). Though the series is tied 6-6, the Cardinals have been knocked for a loop more than once by the Orange in the past seven years.
In 2007, Syracuse beat the 18th-ranked Cardinals, 38-35, at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium as Andrew Robinson threw for 423 yards, the third-best total in school history, and four touchdowns.
The next year, running back Curtis Brinkley broke Syracuse's single-season record for consecutive 100-yard rushing games, getting his fifth straight against the Cardinals as he logged 166 yards. Cameron Dantley's late TD pass gave the Orange a 28-21 victory.
And in Louisville's last trip to the Carrier Dome two years ago, Ryan Nassib passed for 246 yards and three TDs in a 45-26 victory over the Teddy Bridgewater-led Cardinals. It was the first loss of the season after nine wins for 11th-ranked Louisville.
After last week's win over Wake Forest, the Cardinals immediately started talking about payback in the Carrier Dome, and that caught the ear of coach Bobby Petrino.
"I haven't heard a whole lot (since)," Petrino said. "Our focus is really just to get ready to play and go up and do a good job of playing the game right."
Syracuse is coming off a tough loss to then-No. 8 Notre Dame. The Syracuse defense forced five turnovers — safety Durell Eskridge returned an interception for a touchdown — but the offense didn't take advantage of the other four and the Orange lost 31-15.
"When you get five turnovers, there have to be points," Syracuse offensive coordinator George McDonald said. "We got five freaking turnovers and we (the offense) got zero points. Our defense is doing a wonderful job and we're not holding up our end of the bargain."
At least there wasn't much time to dwell on it.
"It's probably a good thing it's a short week," Syracuse defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. "The guys just came back and started right on Louisville."
"After two straight losses, you get hungry for that next win," Orange cornerback Julian Whigham said. "I think we're coming into the game with a lot of hunger. We're up for the challenge."
Some things to know when Louisville visits Syracuse on Friday night:
GROUND CONTROL: Louisville sophomore Brandon Radcliff rushed for career bests of 129 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries against Wake Forest to lead a 215-yard Louisville ground attack. It was something the Cardinals sorely needed after netting just 91 yards in the previous two games. Freshman Reggie Bonnafon is scheduled to make his second straight start at quarterback with sophomore Will Gardner nursing a sore knee, but the Cardinals aim to rush the ball to shift defensive attention away from their developing signal-callers.
WIN OR STAY HOME: According to the NCAA, Syracuse has the eighth-most difficult schedule in the country. Its opponents are 39-17 (.696) so far in 2014, and still on the docket are top-ranked Florida State, Duke and North Carolina State at home and Clemson on the road. The Orange have won three bowl games in four years and a second straight loss at home could put a serious damper on their postseason hopes.
PASS-RUSH MASTERS: Louisville has recorded sacks every game, but has erupted for 16 in the past three contests, including a season-high eight against Wake Forest. Their 19 sacks rank 11th nationally and second in the ACC. Oh, and safety Gerod Holliman has intercepted six passes, returning one for a touchdown against Florida International. Syracuse leads the ACC and is tied for eighth in the nation in fewest turnovers lost with three.
THIRD DOWN WOES: Quarterback Terrel Hunt leads Syracuse in rushing yards (299) and rushing yards per game (74.8) and has scored six touchdowns. He's also thrown for 782 yards and one TD with just two interceptions in 113 throws. Still, the team's third-down conversion rate is an awful 34.5 percent, good for 102nd in the country.
ORANGE OUT: The City of Syracuse officially declared the week "Orange Out Week" in an effort to raise community spirit. Mayor Stephanie Miner thought it was a good way to build team spirit. Several downtown buildings, including City Hall, are illuminated in orange and residents are encouraged to wear orange clothing to show their support for the football team.