Louisville-Syracuse grades: Lamar Jackson dominates ground game

Mike Renner shares the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Cardinals' victory over the Orange.

| 10 months ago
(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Louisville-Syracuse grades: Lamar Jackson dominates ground game

Louisville Cardinals 62, Syracuse Orange 28

Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Cardinals’ 62-28 victory over the Orange:

Louisville Cardinals

Quarterback grade: Lamar Jackson, 81.0

Jackson wows on the ground  

There may not be a more impressive rushing performance from a quarterback all season long. Jackson was absolutely scintillating with the ball in his hands, and Syracuse had no answer for when he kept the ball on the zone read. Almost all of his rushing yards came on this play, as the edge players Louisville left unblocked didn’t have near enough athleticism to chase Jackson to the corner. He broke seven tackles on 20 carries and had 124 of his 208 yards come after contact.

Top offensive grades: 

G Khalil Hunter 77.3
T Lukayus McNeil 77.3
RB Brandon Radcliff 76.5
WR Jamari Staples 75.5
G Kiola Mahoni 71.4

Offense dominates, yet leaves yards on the table

Louisville may have put up 845 yards of offense Friday night, but it’s amazing to think that they had 110 yards lost through the air due to drops. 110! They had eight drops on the night, with Reggie Bonnafon and Cole Hikutini being the major offenders with two apiece. Jamari Staples himself had a drop, but he more than made up for it with 136 yards on only six targets.

Top defensive grades:

CB Jaire Alexander, 85.2
OLB Devonte Fields, 82.5
DT DeAngelo Brown, 80.8
DT Drew Bailey, 79.3
LB Keith Kelsey, 79.0

Stellar pass defense shuts down Syracuse 

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey averaged under five yards per attempt Friday night, and much of it was due to two standout performances from Louisville defenders. The first is outside linebacker Devonte Fields, who batted down two passes including one on a crucial fourth down early in the game. The other is cornerback Jaire Alexander, who allowed 12 total yards on four targets and had an interception of his own.

Syracuse Orange

Quarterback grade: Eric Dungey, 60.7

Dungey struggles through the air 

The Louisville defense made it difficult on Dungey all night, but the majority of the blame for Syracuse’s ineffectiveness fall squarely on his shoulders. After falling behind early, everyone knew Syracuse had to pass and that pressure got to Dungey. His adjusted accuracy percentage of 61.4 percent is dreadful considering almost three quarters of his passes were targeted within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He made some nice plays with his legs, but it was not enough to overshadow his struggles as a passer.


Top offensive grades: 

WR Amba Etta-Tawo, 72.9
TE Kendall Moore, 72.6
WR Steve Ishmael, 69.8
RB Jordan Fredericks, 67.1
T Jamar McGloster, 65.1

Offensive line overpowered by Louisville defense 

To say that the offensive line couldn’t create holes on the interior Friday night would be an understatement. They averaged a meager 3.3 yards per attempt on runs between the tackles which in college is akin to running straight ahead and falling forward. It also doesn’t help that their featured back, Moe Neal, failed to break a single tackle on 12 carries and added a fumble for good measure.

Top defensive grades: 

LB Parris Bennett, 80.8
LB Zaire Franklin, 78.5
S Antwan Cordy, 77.1
LB Jonathan Thomas, 76.1
S Daivon Ellison, 75.4

Gaping holes in secondary too much to overcome 

If you add back in drops, the Louisville receivers would have gained 396 yards prior to the catch on only 39 attempts. That’s about as bad as it gets for a secondary. They played a lot of Tampa-2 coverage, yet they did not nearly have the athletes at safety or middle linebacker to make it work effectively. With only two deep defenders, Louisville simply flooded the deep zones with four receivers and it was easy pickings for Lamar Jackson and company.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

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