The expectations were there. The hope and optimism of a team and fan base frustrated by years of futility were supposed to come to an end after a monumental win last Friday.
That all came crashing down in about three hours today as Louisville defeated Syracuse.
The Orange allowed freshman quarterback Tony Bridgewater to settle in early and compete two early touchdown drives to give Louisville and early 14-0 lead. In both of these drives, the secondary got beat, especially Keon Lyn, who misplayed a ball and got juked out of his shoes on the same touchdown play.
That was all the offense the Cardinals needed as the Syracuse Orange attack that decimated West Virginia sputtered, stalled and failed against this top ranked Louisville unit.
The offense recorded an abysmal 246 total yards of offense with 84 yards on the ground. Ryan Nassib was pressured all day, overthrowing receivers and never finding a way to make the big play. His total of 162 yards throwing only looks worse when looking deeper and realizing he only averaged 4.5 yards a reception.
They key to this game was that Louisville played hard and won the battle of the trenches. Roused by the return of Anthony Conner to the locker room after breaking his neck last week, the Cardinals simply wanted this win more than Syracuse.
Overall, in an unpredictable Big East, Syracuse is not playing consistent enough football to contend for a title. While Syracuse showed last week they have the potential to defeat more talented and hyped teams, this week they showed that those kinds of performances cannot be expected week after week.
The Orange likely just lost their chance at an Orange Bowl birth and a national ranking with this kind of performance. Coach Marrone’s squad needs work going into the final stretch of games, as Syracuse still needs a win to be Bowl eligible.
While going to a bowl is still a victory for a program that has not gone to back-to-back bowls in over a decade, this team had higher expectations in a lackluster conference. But it’s time for fans and the team to stop looking towards the bowl season and start looking at UConn.
Another performance like this could derail the Orange’s season for good.