Louisville Football: Ten Things We Learned from the Cardinals' Loss to Syracuse
Louisville's run at an undefeated season ended in a dumpster fire at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse.
The Cardinals fell to the Orange 45-26 in spite of 424 yards passing from Teddy Bridgewater and three touchdowns.
The Orange did a terrific job of limiting the damage by the Cardinals' offense and taking advantage of mistakes and injuries to pound Louisville into submission.
This list runs down the 10 key lessons we can take away from the difficult loss.
Lorenzo Mauldin, You Are Missed
Lorenzo Mauldin is a starting defensive tackle for Louisville.
He missed this game after suffering an injury against Cincinnati.
It was a huge loss, as Mauldin has racked up 4.5 sacks and has done a great job of clogging the middle of the field for Louisville.
He was obviously missed as Syracuse repeatedly gashed the middle of the Cardinals defense for big gains.
It will be paramount for Mauldin to get healthy before the Cardinals face Rutgers to finish the season.
Rushing the Ball Is Key
Both teams had big days passing the ball with Lousiville garnering over 400 yards and Syracuse nearly 250.
The major difference?
'Cuse established the run game early and often, and physically overpowered the Cardinals for the entire game.
The Cardinals were outgained by Syracuse on the ground by 230, 278 yards to 48 yards.
With Senorise Perry sidelined early in the game, Louisville attempted only 17 rushes to 52 from the Orange.
The injuries to Mauldin and Perry have been touched upon, so let's not belabor the point.
But to be fair, it has to be pointed out that these injuries led to weaknesses at positions that were glaringly obvious throughout the course of the game.
The absence of Mauldin in the middle of the field led to a rushing attack from Syracuse that ran with authority and made a statement all game long, no matter which back got the ball.
With Perry out, the team got away from rushing the ball with any consistency.
Injuries are part of the game, but they still make a difference.
Louisville May Have a Top Ten Quarterback, but Not a Top Ten Team
Teddy Bridgewater had his usual excellent performance against Syracuse.
The rest of the team, not so much.
Bridgewater accounted for 424 of the Cardinals' 472 total yards, an insane number.
Without some support from the rest of the team, a game such as this was inevitable at some point in the season.
It just came earlier in the season than most of us expected.
Louisville Will Not Win the Big East
It's not statistically impossible for the Cardinals to win the conference.
If they beat Rutgers to finish the season, as long as they don't lose before then, the Big East title is theirs.
But this game showed us the weaknesses the Cardinals must overcome to get to that point.
The rushing game was anemic, which does not bode well for that meeting with Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights allow only 88.5 yards on the ground per game, good enough for fourth in the nation.
If Rutgers makes them as one-dimensional as Syracuse was able to, Louisville will struggle to score, much less win the game.
Mistakes Beat the Best of Teams
The best team in the history of college football could be brought down by mistakes.
Louisville, while definitely not the best team in history, demonstrated how costly mistakes can be.
The Cardinals muffed a punt early, which turned into seven Syracuse points.
The team committed six penalties that cost them 35 yards, and had several drops throughout the day.
On the road, against an opponent who was prepared and made fewer mistakes, they cost the Cardinals the game.
The Defense Needs Tons of Work
This game was definite evidence that Louisville's defense needs some help.
The unit was torched, gashed and overall beaten soundly today against Syracuse.
They allowed over 530 yards and 45 points to a team that averages 455 yards and 26 points per contest.
Sure, injuries hurt, the aforementioned to Mauldin and a few others taking place during this contest, but it was a woeful performance whether the unit was at full strength or not.
Alec Lemon Is a Force
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Syracuse wide receiver Alec Lemon seems to get lost in all the hype for other excellent wide receivers.
Today, he got a chance to demonstrate his talent on national television and he took advantage.
Lemon finished the day with two touchdown catches and caught nine passes for 176 yards.
Louisville had no answer for him, even though everyone in the stadium knew that Ryan Nassib was going to throw the ball his way.
Teddy Bridgewater Is Legit
Teddy Bridgewater has been great all season, leading the Cardinals to the top of the Big East and a perfect 9-0 record.
Even though they couldn't come out of the Carrier Dome with a win, Bridgewater again proved why he is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation.
Bridgewater threw for 424 yards, tossed three touchdowns and completed 36 of his 49 attempts in the loss.
He can't do it all by himself, but he certainly tried in this one.
So Is Ryan Nassib
While everyone was talking about Teddy Bridgewater going into this game, Ryan Nassib apparently wanted us to remember him, too.
Nassib had a big day, completing 15 of 23 passes for 246 yards and throwing three touchdown passes.
While he didn't put up the huge yardage numbers of Bridgewater, Nassib was efficient, and made good throws when needed.
After going through three different offenses during his time at Syracuse, Nassib helped lead the team to their biggest win in over a decade against a tough Louisville team.