3:30 PM ET, November 26, 2005
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, LOUISVILLE, KY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The 14 Louisville seniors hadn't lost a home game in two years. They weren't about to let Syracuse ruin their final bow at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Montrell Jones caught six passes for a career-high 118 yards and two touchdowns, fellow senior Brandon Johnson made a key third-quarter interception and the Cardinals overcame the loss of quarterback Brian Brohm to win a school-record 12th straight home game, 41-17 on Saturday night.
The Cardinals (8-2, 4-2 Big East) held off a late rally by the Orange (1-10, 0-7), who finished with the first 10-loss season in the program's 110-year history.
"The seniors made sure we were going to finish that game with a win," Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino said.
Even if Petrino was just trying to finish the game as quickly as possible after Brohm suffered a right knee injury on a third-quarter scramble. On third-and-8 from the Louisville 21, Brohm dropped back to pass and ran to his right after the protection broke down before being tackled by Syracuse's Kellen Pruitt.
Brohm awkwardly rolled over his right knee as he fell and lay on the turf for several minutes before being helped to the sideline. He will have an MRI exam on Monday and his status for next Saturday's game at Connecticut is uncertain.
Brohm finished with 219 yards and two touchdowns but also threw two interceptions, twice as many as he'd thrown in Louisville's first five home games this season. The Cardinals turned the ball over a season-high four times.
None of those turnovers, however, came with Louisville nursing a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter. With the Big East's leading passer sitting on a training table on the sidelines, his knee wrapped in ice, Petrino put the game in the hands of the Louisville defense and running backs Kolby Smith and George Stripling.
The defense responded by consistently putting pressure on Syracuse quarterback Perry Patterson while Smith and Stripling broke free with two big plays in the fourth quarter to make things easier for redshirt freshman quarterback Hunter Cantwell.
"We were challenged," Louisville senior defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. "The offense had a little struggle during the game. We came out and we knew it was all on us."
Patterson threw for 259 yards and a touchdown, but an intentional grounding penalty midway through the fourth quarter stopped a Syracuse drive.
On second-and-12 from the Louisville 13, Patterson threw the ball away while getting chased by a pair of Louisville defenders. The penalty pushed the ball back to the Louisville 31 and two plays later a 48-yard field-goal attempt by John Barker bounced off the left upright, ending Syracuse's last real chance at the upset.
"I'm sick to my stomach about how this thing ended, because we were close," Syracuse coach Greg Robinson said. "Our guys were clawing and scratching."
Barker's miss, however, gave the Cardinals the reprieve they needed.
Filling in for injured starter Michael Bush, Smith finished with a career-high 96 yards and a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 68 yards, including a 57-yard catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter that set up a 9-yard touchdown run by Stripling to seal it.
Stripling later added an 89-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left to end the best day of his career with 137 yards and two scores.
"We had to come together [with Brohm out]," Smith said. "We couldn't have any more mistakes."
The win bolstered Louisville's hope for a Jan. 2 bowl bid. Gator Bowl president Mike Hartley attended the game and said he doesn't foresee many scenarios that don't include the Cardinals making their first appearance in the Jacksonville, Fla., bowl that pits teams from the Big East and the ACC.
Hartley mentioned Virginia Tech, Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech and Clemson as possible opponents.
"I hope that they do invite us," Petrino said. "A Jan. 2 game is something we've talked about doing. It's an opportunity that the change in conference [from Conference USA to the Big East] provides for us."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... John Barker's 48-yard field-goal attempt bounced off the left upright with 8:27 left in the game with Syracuse trailing 27-17. That ended the Orange's last serious threat at an upset.
Gameball goes to... Louisville RBs George Stripling and Kolby Smith, who combined for 233 yards and 3 TDs while filling in for the injured Michael Bush.
Stat of the game... 10: Saturday's loss sealed the first 10-loss season in the 110-year history of Syracuse football.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-17||4-12|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-0|
|TD||13:05||MONTRELL JONES 60 YD PASS FROM BRIAN BROHM (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 62 yards.
|TD||10:42||NICHOLAS CHESTNUT 36 YD PASS FROM PERRY PATTERSON JR. (RICKY KRAUTMAN KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 67 yards.
|FG||7:41||JOHN BARKER 33 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 9 yards.
|TD||2:56||KOLBY SMITH 9 YD RUN (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||10:56||MONTRELL JONES 19 YD PASS FROM BRIAN BROHM (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 76 yards.
|FG||11:53||ARTHUR CARMODY 23 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 72 yards.
|TD||6:29||PAUL CHIARA 24 YD RUN (RICKY KRAUTMAN KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 67 yards.
|FG||12:37||ARTHUR CARMODY 44 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, -2 yards.
|TD||3:32||GEORGE STRIPLING 9 YD RUN (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 66 yards.
|TD||0:38||GEORGE STRIPLING 89 YD RUN (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 92 yards.