Syracuse headed into Saturday’s season finale against Notre Dame as 34 point underdogs. It would have taken a miracle for the Orange to pull an upset, and miracle it was not. SU fell 45-21 to ND.
Although the final score was pretty lopsided, it was an up and down game for both teams. So, to recap it all and give the takes you desire, let’s go through the good, the bad, and the ugly from this one.
Let’s start with the good. Syracuse came out of the gates on fire. The SU defense made a good redzone stand to hold ND to only a field goal on its opening drive. A little later Rex Culpepper found Anthony Queeley for an 18-yard touchdown, which would put the Orange in the lead. Syracuse was actually beating the number two team in the country for a couple minutes in the second quarter.
Another impressive part of the game for Syracuse was the play of Sean Tucker. The freshman rushed for a career high 113 yards, including an explosive 40-yard TD. We haven’t seen that type of production from him in a while, so it was good to see before the season ended.
Wrapping up the good was the Syracuse defense forcing turnovers. If there is one good thing SU fans can take from this horrible season is that the defense has a knack for taking the ball away. Against Notre Dame, the Orange caused a fumble and Ja’Had Carter intercepted Ian Book, who hadn’t thrown a pick in 266 consecutive pass attempts before that.
The bad has been the bad all season long, it’s the story of Syracuse’s season– horrible quarterback play. Culpepper was given the start again and just was completely flat. He went 18-29 for 185 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and two fumbles. Yep, you read that right. Culpepper had three turnovers on his own. When he wasn’t coughing the ball up, his passes were inaccurate and slow. He just doesn’t have the arm strength to get the football to his receivers in a timely manner. Culpepper ultimately got pulled at the end for Dillon Markiewicz. Yet again, the quarterback was Syracuse’s demise.
Not to mention, Syracuse’s penalties were pretty bad too against Notre Dame. The Orange were flagged eight times for a total of 90-yards lost, while the Fighting Irish were only called for three penalties adding up to 30-yards. The sheer amount of penalties is bad, but what’s worse is when some of them came (see below).
The ugly part of this Syracuse versus Notre Dame game happened in a five-minute stretch right before the halftime break. The Orange defense made a great defensive stop on third down, but a roughing the passer call against Kingsley Jonathan gave the Fighting Irish another chance. Two plays later, ND’s Kyren Williams trotted into the endzone for a score. Then, Syracuse got the ball with still plenty of time on the clock to respond before the break, but Culpepper fumbled the ball and gave it to Notre Dame with beautiful field position. The Fighting Irish, of course capitalized on that. To make matters worse, Syracuse gets the ball back again, goes three-and-out so quickly that it gives ND another chance to score, and the Irish go 68 yards in 32 seconds for yet another touchdown.
So to summarize– in less than five minutes, Syracuse completely choked away all of its momentum and allowed Notre Dame to score three times before halftime. It honestly was pretty impressive how badly the Orange botched.
It was not the result SU fans wanted, but it was a pretty fitting way to end the season for Syracuse Football. Time for basketball season.