Syracuse heads to Louisville aimed at stopping its free fall
Nothing's changed in the daily routine of Orange coach Scott Shafer, even as disgruntled fans voice displeasure at a five-game losing streak.
''It's key that I stay steady,'' Shafer said Thursday. ''I think leadership is about consistency and steadiness, and that's what I try to do. If you coach in a panic mode, it'll look like it. It'll feel like it.''
There's no panic yet, even though the Orange (3-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) have to win three of their final four games to be eligible to play in the postseason.
''We want to make a bowl game really bad,'' freshman tailback Jordan Fredericks said. ''Not only for us, but for our community. We have to step it up and crack the whip.''
''We've got to get a win,'' quarterback Eric Dungey said.
''You just have to stay with the plan, which coach Shafer said at the beginning of the season,'' defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. ''It's day by day.''
Louisville has rebounded after losing its first three games - to Auburn, Houston and Clemson. The Cardinals (4-4, 3-2) have won four of five, the only setback in that span to Florida State (41-21) three weeks ago. Last Friday, the Cardinals beat Wake Forest 20-19, forcing five turnovers, including a season-best four interceptions.
Dungey experienced the game played at a higher level in a 45-21 loss to Florida State last Saturday, and his inexperience showed in a subpar performance. At the very least, it was an eye-opener for the freshman, who was 11-of-24 passing for 120 yards but scored twice on the ground.
''When you're playing a team that fast, things change,'' offensive coordinator Tim Lester said. ''What's open against other teams is not open against them.''
A late-season rally by the Orange with the grueling schedule ahead might be wishful thinking with so many underclassmen in key roles. Against the Seminoles, nine of 22 starters were underclassmen and 27 underclassmen have made at least one start this season.
''The big thing when you get toward the end of the season is tackling. That's when the missed tackles start to happen,'' Bullough said. ''Everybody's beat up and you have a young group. They're not as strong as they will be when they're juniors. There are a lot of freshmen running around. We see them get worn down during the season.
''We just have to keep them going and have them push through it, but you can push through it.''
Syracuse finished 3-9 last year - 1-7 in the ACC - after a 2-0 start.