This is getting a little ridiculously don't you agree? One week, the Syracuse University football program plays probably its most complete offensive game in about a decade, which helps rout nationally-ranked West Virginia University, 49-23, at the Carrier Dome. The next week (or previous week, or three weeks before that, or whenever week) the Orange can't get out of their own way and lose to another beatable opponent.
That's what happened Saturday as Syracuse (5-3, 1-2 Big East Conference) was dominated by the University of Louisville, 27-10, in a Big East contest at Papa John's Cardinals Stadium. The Cardinals (4-4, 2-1), who entered the game with the league's worst-scoring offense (16.3 points per game) and hadn't tallied more than 24 points all season, scored 14 in the first quarter and let their top-notch defense pretty much do the rest.
That defense held the Orange to season-low totals in points (10), yards (246), passing yards (162), first downs (14), and third-down conversions percentage (21.4 percent). While, the Louisville was pushing Syracuse around, the Orange killed themselves by committing a season-high 12 penalties for 99 yards.
Syracuse's senior quarterback Ryan Nassib, who a week before probably put together his best collegiate performance against WVU, had arguably his worst performance of the season. Nassib, who was pressured by Louisville blitzes all day, was sacked a season-high four times -- Nassib praised his offensive line after the game and admitted that he was responsible for a number of those sacks. That rush helped limit him to a season-low 162-passing yards, just one passing touchdown, which came during garbage time, and missed multiple wide-open receivers, who most of the time were running routes that would have led to a TD.
"... I definitely wasn't accurate enough this week," said Nassib after the game, "and I didn't make enough throws where guys were open. Those missed throws I made really cost us the game."
Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone didn't put the offensive struggles all on Nassib, but he did admit that those missed throws could have made a difference in the game's outcome.
"You go back and look at it and we've got some guys open," said Marrone. "When I say open I mean touchdown open and we had a couple of overthrows. We had a couple of times when we had guys open and the protection broke down. There is a combination of things that go into it."
The Orange rushing attack wasn't any better. Senior running back Antwon Bailey put together a few big runs -- three went for 14, 29 and 24 yards, respectively -- and finished with 86 yards on 15 carries, but was stopped behind or at the line of scrimmage seven times.
In the end, Syracuse had half of its 12 drives last four plays or less and marched the ball inside Louisville's 30-yard line just twice.
"They did what the film said they were going to do," said Bailey after the game, "they were going to pressure us, and they were going to come after us, which they did, and we struggled."
Three games into the seven-game Big East schedule, here are the Orange -- also know as: the most inconsistent team in all the Football Bowl Subdivision. Every week, the SU fanbase has no idea what to expect for its team. Before each Syracuse kickoff one can ask themselves will I be seeing my team play like the Green Bay Packers (like it did in its victory over WVU a week ago) or the Miami Dolphins (like it did against Louisville Saturday and four weeks ago versus Rutger University)? After the loss not even the Nassib had an answer.
"I can definitely see that," answered Nasibb when he was asked about SU's up-and-down play, "we play so well a week prior and then we come out and lay an egg. It's something that I have to look at because I have to take leadership on the offense because I run the offense, so I have to make sure that I have all these guys right, and most importantly I have to have my self right first."
It was obvious Saturday that there's not one person to point a finger at. The Orange's struggles on offense and defense correlate.
If the offense is going to struggle, then the defense is going to get tired and be shredded by an opposition's passing attack. If the defense is struggling to stop opponents, then the offense is forced to make plays, which leads to bad decisions and turnovers.
What is tough for the SU fanbase is that last week it saw the Orange play a complete game. One that may never happen again this season, but now everybody knows a game like that is possible for a progressing Orange program. As a fan, it is great to know that if your team plays at its best, it can beat a more-talented program -- a few years back, this wasn't even close to possible.
However, as Marrone has said many times, this team isn't good enough yet to do that every week. In fact, its not yet good enough to just win every week.
"I'm not going to use any excuse," said Marrone Saturday. "Here we are in year three and it's back and forth. To answer your question directly, we are an inconsistent football team who has to get better."
Better and more consistent Syracuse will get. But, like each week's performance, the Orange faithful just have no idea when to expect those positive results.