Syracuse shocked the Cards 38-35 in front of 40,922 mostly bewildered UofL fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in the Big East opener for both teams.
Syracuse, one of the worst offensive teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A), rolled up 465 yards of total offense and crushed the Cards BCS (Bowl Championship Series) hopes one week after archrival Kentucky killed their national title aspirations.
"It was the same thing that happened last week, we made too many mistakes to win the football game," junior center Eric Wood said. "I don't think we were prepared enough for this game."
Many expected UofL to bounce back from its loss to the Wildcats, including the oddsmakers who made the Cards five-touchdown favorites against a Syracuse squad that was picked to finish last in the Big East in the preseason media poll.
Instead there was a thud for 19th-ranked UofL (2-2, 0-1), which began this season with a new coach, but the expectations of old coming off a win in January's FedEx Orange Bowl. But after watching his team turn the ball over three times and be flagged for 105 yards worth of penalties the only color Steve Kragthorpe was seeing was red.
"Nobody coached well enough to win, including myself, and nobody played well enough for us to win," the UofL coach said.
winning streak Saturday afternoon.
"That was a very deflating play," Kragthorpe said.
Surprisingly, Louisville's offense, which came in ranked No. 1 nationally (617 ypg), started slowly, too. The Cards, who got nothing out of their first two possessions, put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive that started late in the first quarter and ended early in the second quarter with Brian Brohm's 4-yard TD pass to Scott Kuhn.
But the Orange answered immediately. Max Suter returned Todd Flannery's ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, and the boo birds came out again on the Cards.
The Orange's offense continued to roll through the air. With just under four minutes left in the first half freshman wide receiver DaMon Merkerson got behind the UofL secondary and burned the Cards for a 43-yard touchdown on Robinson's play-action pass. That gave Syracuse, which hadn't scored more than 20 points in its first three games of the season, a 21-7 lead at halftime.
Louisville cut the lead to 21-14 with 6:27 left in the third quarter when Brohm found Douglas wide open in the end zone for a 35-yard TD.
But the Orange answered again. This time it was a 60-yard pass from Robinson to Smith. Smith did most of the work, shaking off several would-be Louisville tacklers before breaking into the clear.
Things got even worse for the Cards when Jameel McClain intercepted Brohm's pass near midfield and returned it to the Louisville 18. That led to a 26-yard field goal from Patrick Shadle and a 31-14 Syracuse lead.
The Cards didn't fold, though. They cut it to 31-21 with 12:58 remaining on a short Brohm to Gary Barnidge TD pass.
But the Orange scored again, on a short TD pass from Robinson to Mike Williams, prompting many UofL fans to file out of their seats.
Louisville added two late TDs on a 2-yard run by George Stripling and a 5-yard pass from Brohm to Patrick Carter but couldn't recover its onsides kick with a little more than a minute remaining.
"We got some penalties, some negative yard plays, some third-and-longs, we moved the ball on them, but we just couldn't sustain drives consistently," said Brohm, who completed 45 of 65 passes for 555 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Douglas finished with 12 catches for 205 yards and a TD before limping off the field late with an injury. Louisville finished with 628 yards of total offense, but only 73 on the ground.
Robinson, meanwhile, completed 17 of 26 passes for 423 yards and four TDs with no interceptions. Smith had four catches for 173 yards and two TDs.
Louisville travels to North Carolina State next Saturday. The Wolf Pack lost to No. 15 Clemson Saturday afternoon.
"In order for us to have a good season we've got to prepare for each game like it's the national championship, because that's how teams are preparing for us," Wood said.
UofL senior quarterback Brian Brohm completed 45 of 65 passes for 555 yards - all three are career-highs - and had four TDs with two interceptions.
UofL senior wide receiver Harry Douglas had 12 catches for 205 yards and a TD.
Syracuse sophomore quarterback Andrew Robinson completed 17 of 26 passes for 423 yards and four TDs with no interceptions.
SU junior wide receiver Taj Smith had four catches for 173 yards and two TDs.
Robinson's 79-yard TD pass to Smith on Syracuse's first play of the game. Smith was uncovered and wide open on the play, thanks to blown coverage in UofL's secondary. It gave the Orange early momentum.
Max Suter's 93-yard kickoff return on the heels of UofL's first TD. It gave the momentum back to the Orange and showed that Syracuse was not going to be a pushover.
Da'Mon Merkerson's 42-yard TD reception from Robinson 3:57 before halftime gave the Orange a 21-7 lead. Like so many receivers had this season, Merkerson slipped behind the UofL secondary for a score to give Syracuse a 14-point cushion to work with in the second half.
Syracuse, which came into the game No. 116 nationally, out of 119 teams, in scoring (10.67 ppg), eclipsed its season-high single-game point total in the first half against the Cards with 21. The Orange's previous season-high came in a 41-20 loss to Illinois last week.
Robinson's 423 passing yards were also key as UofL continued to miss tackles and assignments, especially in its secondary.
OTHER KEY NUMBERS
20 - The number of consecutive home games UofL had won at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium which was the second longest active streak nationally before today's loss to Syracuse.