Even with a bowl game appearance assured, the Cards’ work was not done as they were looking to win their final two games, starting with senior night against Syracuse.
And Louisville sent their seniors out with style, beating the Orange in a 56-34 shootout.
Syracuse began the year in the top 25 but fell quickly out of it as they began losing. Last week’s win at Duke snapped a four-game losing streak, and the Orange will need to win out to make a bowl.
Louisville is looking to fine-tune their game before the season winds down and they discover their bowl opponent.
Today’s matchup saw the return of Mekhi Becton, the nuclear submarine masquerading as an offensive lineman, who had spent the last few games out with an injury.
Louisville scored first on a seven-yard touchdown pass to Marshon Ford. The Orange responded with a field goal on their next possession.
When the Cards offense sputtered on the ensuing drive and was forced to punt, the special team’s unit came through and recovered a fumbled Syracuse punt return. On the next play, Micale Cunningham threw a 29-yard pass to Seth Dawkins for a touchdown to make the score 14-3.
Cunningham didn’t just score through the air though, as he also ran it 20 yards into the endzone with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
The Orange scored their first touchdown with a little under 10 minutes to go in the first half on a 20-yard pass to make the score 21-10.
But Louisville scored again on a 90-yard touchdown pass to Tutu Atwell with just over three minutes to go. And while the Cards had the ball at the end of the half and were driving, they couldn’t score and went into halftime up 28-10.
The third quarter saw a lot of scoring. Every possession by either team saw points being scored.
Syracuse kicked a field goal early in the third quarter, but the Cards scored on yet another Cunningham touchdown pass, this time to Jordan Davis for 28 yards to make the game 35-13.
The Orange came right back and scored on a 45-yard run on the next possession.
Louisville scored again on a 12-yard touchdown run by Hassan Hall to make the score 42-20. But Syracuse responded with a 16-yard touchdown run, only to have the Cards score seven more points with 44-yard run by Javian Hawkins to make the score 49-20.
The scoring wasn’t done with the end of the third quarter, as Syracuse finished their opening possession of the fourth with a touchdown.
It seemed like whoever may get a defensive stop may take the advantage, and the Orange thought they may have had it when they intercepted a pass on Louisville’s first possession. However, they were unable to turn that into points and had to punt it away.
The Cards couldn’t score on their next drive and punted it back only to have a Syracuse receiver run it down to the Louisville three-yard line. Even though it was first and goal on the three for the Orange, a combination of penalties and stout Cardinal defense forced Syracuse to turn it over on downs.
Louisville’s offensive put the game away with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tutu Atwell to make the score 56-34.
Cunningham completed 11 of his 20 passes for 238 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 62 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.
Javian Hawkins was the Cards leading rusher with 236 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. His season rushing total is 1,281 yards, a season record for a freshman.
Hassan Hall also rushed for a touchdown.
Tutu Atwell led the Cards in receiving, catching five passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. This puts Atwell over 1,000 receiving yards on the season, the first Cardinal to do so since Harry Douglas in 2007.
Louisville has a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver for the first time since 1999.
Seth Dawkins, Jordan Davis and Marshon Ford also caught touchdown passes.
Louisville moves to 7-4 on the season (5-3 ACC) and finishes second behind Clemson in the Atlantic Division. Syracuse falls to 4-7 (1-6 ACC).
With the conference season over, only one opponent remains for the Cards as they travel to face their archrival Kentucky on November 30.<