Syracuse football’s 2022 campaign started out with a bang last night. The Orange were 4-point underdogs at home against a Louisville team that had smoked them in seven of the last eight meetings, but SU controlled the game from start to finish in a 31-7 win. Let’s take a dive inside the numbers to see how ‘Cuse pulled off such an impressive opening win.
The largest number here is the most commanding of attention, and perhaps most significant with regards to Syracuse’s win. It took 1,394 days for SU to notch a win over Louisville since its last victory over the Cards on November 9th, 2018. That day, a punishing SU ground game led by Eric Dungey (62 yards, TD) and Moe Neal (8 carries, 159 yards, 2 scores) bludgeoned the Cards for 344 yards on the ground in a 54-23 Syracuse win.
In the meetings since, Louisville strummed Syracuse 56-34, 30-0, and 41-3 over the course of three seasons. SU finally broke the mold last night by scoring its first touchdown against UL since 2019 and keeping the pressure on for the entire game.
The next stat coming up is a prime choice from the cherry-picking department, but bear with me. It’s necessary to zero in on the fine grains of Garrett Shrader’s complete performance under center.
Ready? Last night was just the fourth time since 2000 that an SU quarterback completed at least 72% of his passes, threw for at least 230 yards, and did it against a Power Five opponent.
If we dumb down the number a bit, a Syracuse quarterback has been that efficient and thrown for that many yards 13 times since 2000, but the list is heavily populated by quarterbacks loading up against softball teams like Eric Dungey versus Central Connecticut State in 2017, Terrell Hunt versus Wagner in 2013, and a combo of Ryan Nassib and R.J. Anderson against Rhode Island in 2011 and 2002, respectively. Not exactly premium competition.
An SU quarterback hadn’t had a game fitting such criteria since Tommy DeVito did it in 2019 against NC State. The other two games against Power Five opponents were Eric Dungey’s performance versus Boston College in 2016 and R.J. Anderson’s 2001 game against those same Eagles.
Beneath all the historic comparisons, it was Shrader whose new poise and level of comfort in offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s system that generated buzz. Without such an efficient, confident-looking passing attack, Syracuse couldn’t have beaten Louisville the way it did.
For all the praise heaped on Shrader, he didn’t carry the entire offensive freight by himself. 449 represents the combined passing and rushing yardage total that SU put up against the Louisville defense during an exceptionally balanced day. At one point, the Orange had run exactly 23 runs and 23 passes, and effectively kept Louisville’s defense guessing all evening.
Syracuse uncharacteristically out-threw its running game, 242 to 207. During former offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s two-year tenure from 2020-21, the Orange racked up over 200 passing and rushing yards in the same game only twice: against UAlbany and Virginia Tech last season.
The only real negative to Syracuse’s performance last night can be chalked up to a new offense sorting out its glitches. SU’s 18 penalties weren’t just an annoyance – the number of flags set a new program record, snapping the previous mark of 16 set twice against Boston College in 2016 and against UAlbany just last year.
A count through the box score reveals 10 penalties tallied up by Syracuse at halftime and 10 offensive motion-related penalties called on the Orange for the game. Two delay-of-games on the special teams unit didn’t help matters, either. Even for a team adjusting to its first game and an offense lurching into a new system, that number of flags is ridiculous – particularly for a team entering Year 7 under a head coach.