The rejuvenated Syracuse University football team will try to keep its bowl chances alive today by knocking off an emerging offense to win consecutive true road games for the first time in seven years.
Syracuse (4-6 overall, 1-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) is a nine-point underdog for today’s conference game at Louisville (6-4, 4-3), which will kick off at 4 p.m. at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky., and be televised on the ACC Network.
The Orange returned from the bye to capture a 49-6 win over Duke last Saturday for its largest margin of victory in 19 seasons, emphatically snapping a four-game losing streak while claiming its first win against a power-five opponent this year.
SU needs to win its final two games, including next Saturday’s home finale against Wake Forest (7-3, 3-3) at 12:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome, to gain bowl eligibility. SU last won two straight games on the road to close the 2012 season.
“Getting this last win on the road just shows that it is possible,” SU offensive lineman Airon Servais told the SU athletics website. “I think when you go on a losing streak like we did, it can really affect guys mentally and we were able to go in last Saturday and we were able to make some noise. … We came out with a lot of energy and it’s important to keep that energy up. That worked in out favor in last week’s game and now that we saw what we’re capable of, we have to keep that going.”
The Orange defense dominated in its first performance under new defensive coordinator Steve Stanard. They forced three turnovers that led to 21 points during a third-quarter surge, including a touchdown on an interception return by star safety Andre Cisco for the unit’s first defensive score of the year.
SU also capitalized on two injuries to starters along the offensive line for an already-reeling Blue Devils squad, limiting them to 122 rushing yards on 2.7 yards per carry, and 3.3 yards per play overall.
SU will need that unit to stay productive to combat a potent Louisville offense with elite speed in the backfield and at wide receiver, which is hitting its stride under first-year coach Scott Satterfield.
Freshman running back Javian Hawkins is averaging 104.5 rushing yards per game to rank third in the ACC, while wide receivers Chatarius Atwell (91.6 receiving yards per game) and Dez Fitzpatrick (56.2), who have combined for 15 receiving touchdowns, are electric in the open field.
Louisville leads the ACC in pass efficiency (169.1), fourth in scoring offense (32.3 points per game) and third in rushing offense (199 yards per game).
The Cardinals have won four of their past six games and generated the second biggest turnaround in the FBS through 10 games, improving from 2-8 last year.
“I think it was a good game-plan and I think the kids did a good job executing that game-plan,” SU coach Dino Babers said of the defensive performance against Duke. “It will be interesting to see how things go on Saturday because the offense we’re about to play is a lot better than the offense we just played. They’ve got some cats and can do some things, so if you’re watching the tape, let’s see what happens. I hope it’s the same thing, but they’ve got some different players out there. … They are lightning fast and when they get out in space, it’s going to be trouble.”
SU also made a key adjustment along the offensive line last week, another change that helped a struggling unit break out of its recent funk.
Servais was moved from center to his natural position of left tackle, switching spots with redshirt-freshman Carlos Vettorello.
The revamped unit allowed just one sack, after allowing an FBS-worst 48 through its first eight games, and paved the way for two 100-yard rushers — Moe Neal and Jarveon Howard each tallied 115 net rushing yards and a touchdown — for the first time since 2017. Redshirt sophomore guard Dakota Davis garnered ACC offensive lineman of the week honors.
The clean pocket also allowed SU quarterback Tommy DeVito to extend his streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception to 146, the third-longest active streak in the FBS and the third best stretch in SU history.
“I think everything felt really natural and we felt like a cohesive group up front, and I think that showed in some of the stats that our running backs were able to achieve this week,” Servais said.
SU is aiming to enter its final regular-season game next Saturday on senior day with a chance to reach consecutive bowl games for the first time since 2012-13.