Charlie Strong has been a revelation as the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, but even he could do nothing to stop the unexpected onslaught of a formerly sluggish Syracuse offense.
On Saturday, his team blew a chance to start the season 10-0 when the Cardinals traveled to upstate New York and took a pounding, 45-26
Quarterback Ryan Nassib out-dueled the sensational Teddy Bridgewater, who had been enjoying ever-increasing support for a Heisman nod as he navigated an undefeated run through his team’s first nine games.
Nassib would finish out the afternoon an efficient 15-for-23 for 246 yards and three touchdowns. He did not throw an interception. Bridgewater’s numbers looked even better, completing 36-of-49 passes for a whopping 424 yards and three touchdowns himself, but he was playing from behind all afternoon and was thus forced to air it out to try to come back quickly.
The real story is how spectacularly the Orange managed to run the ball against the nation’s No. 35-ranked defense.
Junior Jerome Smith broke through for a silly 144 yards on only 18 attempts, for a massive 8.0 yards-per-carry average. His classmate and speed-merchant of a teammate, Prince-Tyson Gulley, piled up 98 yards on only 15 carries. He scored twice while averaging 6.5 yards per clip.
Commentators and announcers continually ignored the Cardinals’ run at perfection, routinely leaving the program out of the national championship conversation in favor of Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame – the nation’s premier undefeated squads.
Obviously, players were upset, tweeting out their frustrations and telling anyone who would listen how confident they were feeling with regards to finishing the season undefeated.
When it came to put their money where their virtual mouths were, however, Strong’s team proved all the media pundits and announcers right when they headed north and laid an egg way up in snowy Syracuse, NY.
Previously 4-5 and 3-2 in the Big East, Syracuse now has an exponentially better chance at reaching a bowl game after evening up its record at 5-5. With a Missouri team that has struggled mightily in its first SEC season up next week and Temple to round out the regular season, a year that was seemingly slipping away now has a signature win and a clear path towards that coveted bowl berth.
Louisville, on the other hand, must be feeling more than devastated, having blown a real shot at the BCS National Championship game. Yes, Bridgewater and Co. would have needed help, but all you can do as a team is give yourself a chance.
Against a Syracuse team that has struggled for the better part of a decade, Louisville did no such thing. The Cardinals never had a chance.
Information and statistics from ESPN.com were used in this article.
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