Syracuse won the past two games against Louisville, both in shocking fashion. Two years ago, the Orange marched out of PJCS with a 38-35 win despite being a 34 point underdog. Last year, Syracuse knocked off the heavily favored Cardinals again, 28-21.
Louisville and Syracuse are both coming off Big East road losses last week. The Cardinals couldn't muster any offense in a 17-9 loss at West Virginia to fall to 0-5 on the road this season. Fortunately, the Cardinals will play Syracuse, who lost 37-10 last week against Pittsburgh, at PJCS.
The Cardinals are also hoping to snap and nine-game Big East losing streak. Louisville's last league win came over South Florida at home on October 25, 2008, 24-20. Embattled coach Steve Kragthorpe is 14-19 at UofL and is only 4-14 against Big East foes.
Now, standing 3-6 with three games remaining in his third season, Kragthorpe hopes his team can turn things around in the "final quarter" of the season.
"We know we have to win all three games to get to a bowl game," Kragthorpe said. "Our goal is to win all three games. We're certainly taking Syracuse first and trying to do everything we can to put ourselves in a position to beat them. This is it for us. We know we have to finish strong."
Syracuse started the season 2-2 under new coach Doug Maronne but have dropped four of their last five games. The Orange have been hurt badly by injuries. Syracuse lost four starters to season-ending injuries against the Panthers, including All-Big East nose tackle Arthur Jones. The Orange also lost their starting offensive tackle, starting tight end and starting strong safety. Syracuse took just 55 players to Pittsburgh – five below the allowed number – because of injuries and defections, including star wide receiver Mike Williams.
"They're a very similar team to us," Kragthorpe said. "They're a little banged up like we are. They lost a few guys against Pitt, and throughout the course of the season. They're playing a lot of young players."
Meanwhile, Louisville appears to be getting healthier.
"Hopefully we'll get some guys back this week," Kragthorpe said. "We're hopeful Victor [Anderson] will be able to play. He brings another dimension of speed to the game. It looks like Adam [Froman] could be available. I also think [cornerback] Karldell Dunning should be able to play this week which should give us more depth in the secondary this week."
Kragthorpe also said that cornerback Andrew Robinson is 100 percent after missing the last four games with a groin problem.
Greg Paulus, Syracuse's starting quarterback, is an intriguing story. He played for Duke, in basketball, the past three years before transferring to Syracuse to become their starter this year. He's had a solid season, completing 65 percent of his throws, but has tossed 16 interceptions, while throwing only 10 touchdowns.
"I didn't know if a guy that far removed from football could come in and play at the level he's played at," Kragthorpe said. "I was skeptical. He's done a tremendous job. He's a good field general, he's a tremendous athlete and has made plays with his feet."
With Paulus directing the offense, the Orange rank last in the Big East in total offense, passing offense, rushing offense and are second to last in scoring offense at just 20 points per game.
"It looks the like the west coast system that Doug was involved with at New Orleans with Sean [Peyton], a lot of quick passes and zone running plays," Kragthorpe said.
On defense, Syracuse ranks last in the league in several major statistical categories, including scoring defense and total defense. Louisville averages only 19 points per game, eighth in the Big East.
"They're still very aggressive on the defensive front," Kragthorpe said. "They bring a lot of different blitzes, strong safety blitzes, corner blitzes."
Louisville has lost their four Big East contests this season by an average of 33-13. The Orange have lost their four league games by the same margin. Whoever makes a big special teams play or two and protects the football will probably get their first league win of the season Saturday afternoon at PJCS.
"I think the biggest thing for us is we've got to continue to run the ball well, we've got to take care of the football – we can't turn it over. Turnovers have been an achilles heel for us this year," said Kragthorpe. "We've got to win the turnover margin this week. I think special teams will be gigantic this week. We've got to create a great field position for our offense and help our defense play on a longer field. And then we need to make some big plays and getting Victor back should help us do that."
Date November 14, 2009
Kickoff 12:00 p.m.
Radio 84-WHAS AM
Series Syracuse leads the series 5-3