"Then for two quarters of the game we just went stagnant in all three phases," Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "By the time we got it back rolling again we had spotted them a 28-14 lead."
By then, it was too late. The final score put a dagger through Louisville's Big East title hopes. Syracuse 28, Louisville 21.
"We're not very happy around here right now," said Kragthorpe, who now owns a 4-6 Big East record.
Louisville starting defensive tackle Earl Heyman said the Cardinals "relaxed" a bit after having early success against the Orange and might have "underestimated" Syracuse, a team that has won just three Big East games the last four years.
"We had good practices all week long," Kragthorpe said. "We came out and played well in the first two series of the game so I don't think you can say we came out as a flat football team. A flat football team would have not taken the ball 93 yards on the first drive and gone three and out on the first drive.
Pitt this Saturday.
"I think we had a good week of practice. One of the things I think happened is we had a little success early in the game and we didn't continue to pound on them like we should have. We were up 7-0 and had a chance to make it 14-0 and take the crowd out of the game. But we didn't do that."
But why did the Cardinals "relax" after their fast start against the Orange, a team that had embarrassed them just one year ago in PJCS with an improbable 38-35 victory as a 34-point underdog?
"I think what we've got to realize as a football team is that you've got to play every single play (like the first two series)," said Kragthorpe.
What Syracuse figured out was that Louisville's defense is vulnerable against a power rushing attack. So the Orange lined up and ran Curtis Brinkly at the Cardinals defense all night. It worked. Brinkley rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown.
"Nobody has really lined up and tried to power the ball at us and run the ball down our throats," Kragthorpe said. "UConn has been the only other team that has tried to do that. Kansas State ran it 10 or 11 times with their tailback and South Florida ran it 12 times with their tailback. So nobody really lined up and tried to pound us."
After Syracuse's display in the Carrier Dome, you can bet Pittsburgh, Louisville's next opponent, will take dead aim at the Cardinals run defense, especially with All-Big East running back LeSean McCoy and Larod Stephens-Howling to carry the load.
"(Pittsburgh) does a great job of pounding the ball at you and then throwing play-action passes," Kragthorpe said. "They're very similar to what Syracuse did last week. I'm concerned with their entire offense right now. They're going to try to line up and pound the ball at us with their two (tailbacks)."
"We've got to find a way to defend that," Kragthorpe added.
Besides trying to figure out a way to stop McCoy and the Panther, Kragthorpe also must find a way to get his team to rebound mentally and emotionally from another disappointing loss to Syracuse.
"We're not going to make a lineup change just for the sake of making a lineup change," Kragthope said. "That's foolish to do that. But we are going to play our best players."