LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- In a game that threatened to deteriorate into a comedy of errors befitting two teams at the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, Louisville was able to overcome its miscues and defeat Syracuse 30-0 Friday night in Cardinal Stadium.
The turnover-prone Cardinals (3-6, 2-6) surrendered the ball three times, but the Orange's (1-8, 1-7) inept offense was unable to take advantage of the mistakes and UofL's defense came up with three takeaways as the winners snapped a two-game losing streak.
Even with their turnovers -- all by quarterback Malik Cunningham, two interceptions and a fumble -- the Cards were dominant. They ran 79 plays to Syracuse's 41 and the Orange ran only seven offensive plays in Louisville territory. Cuse, the second-worst team in the country in third down conversions at 23 percent, converted only one-of-10, the lone success coming in the final minute.
It was UofL's first shutout against a Power 5 team since a 28-0 win over Kentucky in the 2004 season opener, although calling Syracuse a Power 5 team is quite a stretch.
Louisville's defense was at full strength for the first time in awhile after a handful of starters missed two games with coronavirus issues.
"First of all, very exciting to get a win," UofL coach Scott Satterfield said. "We've been through so much adversity the last couple weeks and to come out here and play like we did, particularly defensively, what an awesome performance by our defense. It was the best week of practice we've had since we've been here. To come out and shut a team out, tremendous job by those guys. Just can't say enough good things about those guys.
"We had all our guys back on the defensive side of the ball for the first time in a few weeks. They came out tonight and played with a lot of great energy. That's the way this game is meant to be played and should be played.
"Offensively, solid performance. Obviously, the turnovers were not good, but we were able to move the football. Overall, great performance by really our whole team and coaches, so really proud of all those guys."
Cunningham completed 19-of-28 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown before being relieved by Juwan Pass at the start of the fourth quarter as UofL outgained Syracuse 413-137. Braden Smith led the Cards' receivers with seven catches for 65 yards. Maurice Burkley and Jalen Mitchell keyed UofL's ground game with 56 and 46 yards, respectively.
James Turner got the Cards on the board in their first possession of the game with a career-long 50-yard field goal and later added kicks of 40 and 33 yards.
A fumble recovery by Jordan Watkins on a kickoff set up UofL's first touchdown, a 2-yard run by Mitchell with 3:36 left in the second quarter. Then, after Syracuse turned the ball over on downs at midfield, Cunningham completed a 39-yard pass to Dez Fitzpatrick and three plays later ran in from four yards out for the score and a 20-0 halftime lead.
UofL's only other TD came on Cunningham's 19-yard strike to Tutu Atwell at the 6:45 mark of the third quarter.
The usually unemotional Satterfield was almost giddy with excitement in his post-game press conference, describing how gratifying it was for the Cards to get their first win in nearly a month. It was their fifth win in six games over Syracuse as an ACC member.
"I can't think of anything better than what they did tonight, to come out and play the way they did to get a big win," he said. "We've battled in so many aspects, not just on the field. We've battled off the field too, a lot of different things people don't know about on a daily basis. So it's very rewarding to get a shutout. It's incredible. They're hard to come by. We know winning is tough in college football no matter who you are, no matter how talented you are. We needed it in the worst way.
"It was a lot of fun, a lot of frustration leaving. It's almost. . .I don't even know what to say quite honestly. It was awesome to see them dance and celebrate and having fun like that, as it should be when you win. They should be rewarded with that celebration in the locker room and hopefully it propels us to come back out and be ready to go for next week."
With the ACC having shuffled the league schedule this week, UofL will now host Wake Forest on Nov. 28 instead of in the season finale. The Cards will end their season at Boston College on Dec. 12.
SATTERFIELD IGNORING SO. CAROLINA TALK
No sooner had Will Muschamp been fired as South Carolina's head coach last weekend than an Associated Press college football writer suggested on Twitter that Satterfield would be a likely candidate for the job. He was also mentioned in other social media posts. But Satterfield, who has many connections in the Carolinas due to his long stint as a player and coach at Appalachian State, dismissed that possibility when asked about it earlier this week.
"We have a job to do here," he said. "I have so much going on here, I don't have time to worry about anything else. I am focused on this team and doing everything we can to try and find a win. With all the things we've got to fix here, I'm not worried about my name getting brought up. I'm not even on social media, don't know what's going on out there in the world. I'm focused on making our guys better players and better men."
SCHEDULE CHANGES FOR CARDS
The Atlantic Coast Conference announced a pair of schedule changes to the University of Louisville football schedule.
The Cardinals, who were originally slated to face Boston College on Dec. 12, will now travel to face the Eagles on Saturday, Nov. 28. Game time and network will be announced on Sunday.
The 2020 regular season finale is now scheduled to end on Dec. 19 when the Cardinals host Wake Forest. Game time and network television will be announced at a later date. Louisville will salute its 18 senior prior to the game versus the Demon Deacons.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at email@example.com.