The Cardinals are looking to rebound from their first loss of the season last Saturday, a 40-34 setback to rival Kentucky. The Orange should be the perfect opponent to help Louisville get back on the winning track.
Syracuse has dropped their first three games this season to Washington, Iowa and Illinois by a combined 118-32. The Orange rank near the bottom of the national rankings in several key offensive and defensive statistics, including total and scoring offense (116), rushing offense (117) and rushing defense (114), total defense (101) and scoring defense (108).
While the game figures to be a warm-up for a much tougher Big East slate that lies ahead for Steve Kragthorpe's team, the first-year Louisville coach hopes to see some more improvement from his team this week, particularly on defense.
The Cardinals, who rank 93rd nationally in rushing defense, 92nd in total defense and 88th in scoring defense, have allowed 82 points in their past two games to Middle Tennessee and Kentucky. Louisville allowed 555 total yards against MTSU and 460 to Kentucky. Kragthorpe says his defense needs to continue to improve communication.
play from his defense against Syracuse.
"I thought we did a better job communicating and executing against Kentucky," junior defensive tackle Earl Heymanadded. "I thought that we played hard on defense."
Senior linebacker Malik Jackson, who is second on the team with 20 tackles, said the defense is still trying to figure out what went wrong the past two weeks.
"We just need to get our plan down, execute and tackle," Jackson said. "We have to find out what the problem is and get that working right. This is a whole different defense from last year. There's a lot of different personalities, everything is just different. (Hopefully) in a couple more games we'll figure out what the (problem) is. Right now we're just trying to fix things."
Louisville has won the last three games in the series against Syracuse, including last year's 28-13 win in the Carrier Dome. Clearly, these aren't the Orange of old with Donovan McNabb and Marvin Harrison, as Syracuse enters today's game averaging only 10.7 points per game.
Junior running back Curtis Brinkley, sophomore quarterback Andrew Robinson and junior wide receiver Taj Smith highlight the Syracuse offense. Brinkley has carried 36 times for 94 yards and also has made eight catches for 152 yards, while Robinson has completed 56 percent of his passes for 468 yards and one touchdown. Smith has nine receptions for 88 yards this season.
Senior end Jameel McClain and senior safety Joe Fields lead the Syracuse defense. McClain has 21 tackles, while Fields has 26 tackles, tied for seventh in the Big East.
"Syracuse, although they're 0-3, they are a team that has played well in spurts and they're talented," Kragthorpe said. "They've played some good football teams. I think their quarterback is getting more comfortable each week and they've got some playmakers on the outside at wide receiver. They are very multiple on the defensive side of the ball and they're going to blitz from different angles."
With three other nationally ranked Big East teams looming on the schedule later this season, Louisville knows there's no room for error against Syracuse.
"The Big East is a tough conference and we know this," Heyman said. "We watch the teams in the Big East play and we know what lies ahead of us. We're focused on the Big East and Syracuse right now."
Date/Time: Sept. 22, 12 PM; Location: PJCS; TV: ESPN Regional; Radio: 84 WHAS