"I am very embarrassed today for our program," said head coach Charlie Strong following the Cardinals 45-26 loss at Syracuse on Saturday. "We didn't play well—the preparation and the execution weren't there. We didn't play well in all three phases—offense, defense and the kicking game."
When the first sentence to be uttered by a head coach during post game comments contains the word embarrassed, it's clear things didn't go well.
The Cardinals passing attack had it's share of highlights. Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater once again posted stellar numbers, completing 74% of his 49 attempts for 424 yards and three touchdowns. Eli Rogers hauled in a career-best 10 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown, while DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland also had solid outings.
After losing Senorise Perry to a leg injury during their opening drive, the Cardinals were only able to muster 48 rushing yards, by far the team's lowest output of the season.
The noise in the Carrier Dome also seemed to effect the U of L offense. U of L was forced to use two timeouts during the first half and it could be to blame for a handful of false start penalties against the Cardinals.
The Orange moved the ball with relative ease, both through the air and on the ground. The Cardinals defense only forced one punt during the first half, allowing the Orange to score on 5 of it's 6 possessions.
The defensive front struggled to apply any type of pressure on the Syracuse quarterback. U of L failed to record a single quarterback hurry and its only sack of the game came midway through the third quarter with Syracuse holding a 38-13 advantage.
Possibly the most troubling stat from the Cardinals loss was Syracuse's ability to convert it's third-down opportunities. U of L's third-down defense was sub-par entering Saturday afternoon's game, allowing opponents to convert 42% of it's opportunities. 42% would have been a fantastic performance when compared to what occurred against the Orange. Syracuse faced 3rd down on 19 occasions and converted 74% of them. The U of L defense now ranks 101st in the nation in stopping third-down conversions.
John Wallace continues to prove he's among the nation's most accurate field goal kickers, going 2-for-2 against Syracuse. The red shirt freshman is now 10-11 on the season, with his only miss coming from 57 yards out. His 91% accuracy is tops in the Big East and tied for sixth in the nation.
Wallace had an extra point blocked in the third quarter.
Scott Radcliff muffed the only punt by Syracuse's during the first half. The Orange recovered at the Louisville 24-yard line and drove for their first touchdown of the game to take a 10-3 lead.
The Cardinals kickoff unit failed to register one touchback and allowed 20 yards per return.
The Orange also averaged 12 yards per punt return.
Louisville gave fans little reason to get excited on Saturday, as the outcome of the game was determined before halftime.
For the first time this season the Cardinals tasted defeat. They finally found an adversity that they couldn't overcome. This is a team that has displayed resiliency and determination throughout the season. It has overcome undesirable weather conditions and second half deficits to remain undefeated through nine games.
The team entered the season with high expectations and while winning the Big East Conference and participating in a Bowl Championship Series bowl game were among the goals, doing so with a perfect record wasn't.
Louisville is certain to face a similar setting when it finishes the regular season at nationally-ranked Rutgers.
"We have a lot to learn from this game," said Strong. "Now we have to go back. We have two more games and have to see where this football team is. This was a good experience for us — to come into a hostile environment and see how we would play and we just didn't play well today."
Louisville will not play this weekend. Up next for the Cardinals is Connecticut. The Huskies will visit Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Saturday, November 24.