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Syracuse Puts on a Show in Season Opener, Takes Down Louisville 31-7

Garret Shrader (6) hands the ball off to Sean Tucker amid a massive night from the pair.
Garret Shrader (6) hands the ball off to Sean Tucker amid a massive night from the pair.

New season, same Sean Tucker. “Heisman” chants rang throughout the Dome as the sophomore running back checked out for the night. The Maryland native tallied 183 all-purpose yards, collecting two touchdowns in Syracuse’s (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) 31-7 win over Louisville (0-1, 0-1 ACC).

Tucker was just one piece of an explosive offense that racked up 449 yards on the night. In the newly christened JMA Wireless Dome, Garrett Shrader put on a show behind center to open the season. The junior went 14-for-17 accumulating 158 yards through the air including two TDs. Shrader picked up an additional 59 yards on the ground, including a 24-yard conversion on 3rd & 13 that led to Tucker’s second touchdown.

The win marked the fewest points allowed by the Orange against the Cardinals since the 1992 season. SU held Louisville to just 282 total yards thanks to a suffocating defense that terrorized the Louisville offense all night. A goal-line stand in the first half prevented Louisville from narrowing the game to a field goal, and three second-half turnovers sealed the game for the Orange.

“I knew exactly what those guys were capable of,” linebacker Mikel Jones said of the defensive line. “So I feel like that was a winner for us and they came out and showed what they were capable of.”

During last year’s 41-3 loss, Cunningham scored four touchdowns. Tonight, Cunningham was held scoreless and threw more interceptions than he’s had in the last two matchups against the SU. The first allowed Garrett Williams to record his first interception since November of 2020, a ball thrown short in the Orange end zone saw a leaping full-extension web gem.

One glaring issue for Syracuse could be found in the form of yellow cloths on the turf all game, 18 times to be exact. The 18 Orange penalties set a new single-game program record, something the ‘Cuse will definitely have to clean up as the season continues. While, SU did walk away with a 24-point win, those penalties hindered opportunities for more scoring. After a goal line stop in the second quarter, Syracuse mustered up a quick 50 yards to get to midfield before a false start followed by a Carlos Vettorello snap infraction extinguish the drive.

“Some of those penalties were aggressive penalties,” head coach Dino Babers said postgame. “You don’t like the mental ones. But, when you talk about the game and their effort and what they were trying to overcome. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve been there or not, this is a bully that’s beating you up three times in the courtyard. And you haven’t eaten for a while and he’s taking your money, and he’s taking your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You’re getting skinny and you need something to eat.”

Caleb Okechukwu (93) and the Orange defense swallows up Malik Cunningham.
Caleb Okechukwu (93) and the Orange defense swallows up Malik Cunningham.

Although the discipline will be something SU works on this week, the offense and defense put on a clinic. There’s not a lot to complain about in a blowout win over an ACC opponent to start the year, but the first taste tonight of a season to be has Orange nation begging for more.

The 1-0 Orange hit the road next weekend to battle former Big East foe, UConn. Syracuse currently holds a 3-game winning streak where they have outscored the Huskies by a combined 67 points. The ‘Cuse look for number four on Saturday with GZA Countdown to Kickoff starting live at 6:30 on WAER.