SYRACUSE, New York — Syracuse has had an up-and-down season, the down part being losses in the last two games.
A 34-20 loss to Maryland in the Carrier Dome on Sept. 20 was followed by a 31-15 setback against unbeaten Notre Dame on Saturday night at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Now comes a tough home matchup against Louisville (4-1) on Friday night.
"This is a truly resilient group of kids," coach Scott Shafer said Tuesday. "They come back hungry and ready to go to work. A lot of them have been around the building watching videotape, getting prepared for Louisville. It's a short week. We'll be ready to go."
Against the Irish, who dropped one spot to No. 9 in AP Top 25 this week, the Orange (2-2) forced five turnovers but failed to take much advantage, scoring just 12 points including an interception returned for a touchdown by safety Durell Eskridge.
A run game that purred the week before against the Terps (370 yards) ground to a halt against the Irish. Take away punter Riley Dixon's 42-yard scamper on a fake, and the Orange gained only 93 yards on 29 carries. That's less than 3 yards per attempt.
The Syracuse offense led by quarterback Terrel Hunt also was woeful on third down, converting only 3 of 15 chances, compared with 9 of 14 for Notre Dame. The 6-foot-3, 234-pound Hunt, the Orange's leading rusher at 74.8 yards per game, managed just 26 yards on seven carries against the Irish.
"Terrel has been progressing well. He's really improved his passing game," Shafer said. "He did some very good things against a very good defense. I was very pleased with his reads and his progressions. He was on time and on mark probably as well as he's been."
One of Shafer's main focuses again this week is addressing the penalties called against his Orange. There were 10 against Notre Dame, many of them before the ball was snapped. And there have been about four times as many infractions called inside the 30-yard line than outside it, a real cause for concern.
"We have to do a better job with some of the discipline penalties," Shafer said. "The ones that bother me the most are the ones before the ball is snapped. I think it's a mental thing more than anything. You don't want to cause extra pressure in those situations, especially when you get down in the red zone.
"I think, to some degree, the kids want it so bad that sometimes they don't play with that balance they have to have," Shafer said. "Are we playing with too much pressure on ourselves? We move the ball up and down the field, and then when we get in a tight zone we haven't done as good a job controlling the variables that we can control."
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