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Syracuse vs. Louisville: Cardinals Defense Presents Challenge

Syracuse football offensive coordinator Tim Lester said that last week's game at Florida State was the "fastest" game freshman quarterback Eric Dungey has played in.

The Seminoles, which have college football's 24th-best defense, were -- statistically speaking -- the best defense Dungey has played against this season, and it showed. Dungey completed just 11 of 24 passes for 120 yards and no touchdowns, but he did rush for 46 yards and two touchdowns.

"I thought he played, O.K.," Lester said. "He didn't play great ... The whole thing when you're a freshman is just getting the game to slow down. Every time he plays, the game will slow down a little more."

Dungey will next play on Saturday, when the Orange visit Louisville in an Atlantic Coast Conference battle at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The Cardinals (4-4, 3-2 ACC) have an even better defense than the Seminoles, and it will be yet another major test for Syracuse's (3-5, 1-3) offense and Dungey. 

Louisville ranks 17th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense, giving up just 309.3 yards per game. The Cardinals are 39th in passing yards allowed per game, giving up 197.6 yards per game through the air. Against Clemson on Sept. 17, they allowed only 199 passing yards against the country's 33rd-best passing attack.

Louisville is even better against the run, giving up just 111.6 yards per game -- the 16th-best mark in the country.

Louisville is led defensively by linebacker Keith Kelsey, who leads the team with 68 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss; defensive end Trevon Young, who leads the ACC with eight sacks; and cornerback Trumaine Washington, who has three interceptions and three tackles for loss.

Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said that the Cardinals' defense is "very multiple."

"They'll give you multiple fronts, multiple coverages," he said on Wednesday's ACC Coaches teleconference. "... All those kids run well. They have good size, good length."

Lester, meanwhile, has been very impressed with Louisville's defensive line.

"They're really talented up front and on the edges. Their defensive ends are really fast and they're really strong in the middle... And they fly around. They play fast. It'll be a challenge for sure."

But if there's one quarterback up for such a challenge, it might be Eric Dungey. Even after struggling against Florida State, Dungey is still fourth among all ACC quarterbacks in quarterback rating. In three games, he's thrown for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions, all while completing 61.6 percent of his passes. He's also recorded five rushing touchdowns, tied for 11th among all players in the conference.

Shafer said he's been especially impressed with Dungey's athleticism and willingness to adapt and improve throughout the season.

"All in all, I've been pleased with his progress in understanding coverage, understanding front to coverage, and how to attack it. He's a very bright young man, nearly all A's coming out of high school, and he's shown a proficiency to learn. Every week we continue to see that growth, so I'm excited about where he is and where he's headed."

Where he's headed is to Louisville, where he'll take on a very talented defense. But if Dungey can solve that defense, it could help Syracuse earn a much-needed win as it attempts to get back on the track to bowl eligibility.

Syracuse and Louisville are scheduled to kick off at 12:30 p.m. ET. Tune into 88.3-FM WAER for live game action.