For Louisville, it was an inspired win. For Syracuse, it was a blown chance at building momentum.
The Cardinals (4-4, 2-1) absolutely dominated from start to finish in a 27-10 win Saturday, playing on behalf of injured teammate Anthony Conner. They put major pressure on Ryan Nassib, sacking him four times and flustering him for most of the game. They got another good performance from the offensive line and the run game. For the first time all season, they had over 100 yards rushing in back-to-back games. They got another solid performance from true freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was 17-of-24 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. And they hit a season-high for points.
All week, players said they would play for Conner, who broke his neck last week against Rutgers. When Conner showed up in the locker room before the game wearing a neck brace, the players went wild. And don't look now, but Louisville is right there in the middle of the conference race with wins over Rutgers and Syracuse -- two winning teams in the Big East.
Louisville has now won back-to-back conference games for the first time under coach Charlie Strong. Meanwhile, Syracuse (5-3, 1-2) went from putting up 49 points last week in a stunning upset over West Virginia to scoring just a field goal until 1:31 remained in the game. Antwon Bailey had his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games end at four, and Nassib missed way too many wide open receivers. Perhaps the pressure rattled him and got him out of rhythm because he was not the same quarterback today as he was last week, when he got no pressure at all from West Virginia.
Syracuse also had a season-high 12 penalties for 99 yards -- including a whopping five personal fouls. Inexcusable to be sure. But this was a major letdown for a team that beat then-No. 15 West Virginia 49-23 last week.
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone is now 0-3 against Louisville. When asked earlier this week what the Cardinals did that made them effective against his team, he said, "Pressure, man-to-man, running the football, pounding it. It's not a secret," Marrone said. "Those guys have done a good job of that and they've been able to beat us."
Louisville followed the same blueprint to win again Saturday.