Sunday, September 14, 2003
Louisville 30, Syracuse 20
By John Kekis
The Associated Press
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Just when the game seemed about to slip away from Louisville, Stefan LeFors and J.R. Russell shocked Syracuse.
Louisville's Michael Bush outruns Syracuse defenders after catching a pass from Stefan LeFors for a touchdown in the third quarter.
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The Cardinals' dynamic duo combined for 48 yards on consecutive plays early in the fourth quarter Saturday as Louisville (2-0) held on for a 30-20 victory, their second straight on the road.
The Orangemen (1-1) had rallied from 17 points behind and trailed only 27-20. But LeFors, making just his second start at quarterback, took a snap at his own 9-yard line on a third-and-7 play and hit Russell with a sideline pass for 8 yards to gain a little more room to work with.
"Third down is money down," said Russell, who had six catches for a career-high 133 yards. "That was the play we had to have to keep us going. I saw the cushion and knew I could beat the corner."
The two then combined for a 40-yard pass down the right side on the next play, the 6-foot-3 Russell making a diving catch past redshirt freshman cornerback Terrell Lemon.
"That really was the difference in the game," said Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. "We were backed up there."
The Syracuse defense entered the game riding a forgettable streak, having allowed more than 500 yards in five straight games. So it wasn't too surprising that Louisville came out throwing.
LeFors, who threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns, completed his first six passes for 109 yards and put the Cardinals ahead 7-0 with a 40-yard scoring pass to Russell just six minutes into the game.
"It was important to take that first drive and try to go down and score," said LeFors, who consistently found the seams in the Syracuse defense, going 16-for-25 with one interception. "After that, everybody's confidence tends to rise. That was huge."
LeFors also had TD passes of 1 yard to D.J. Kamer and 24 yards to Michael Bush, and Eric Shelton ran for 135 yards on 24 carries, gaining 51 yards on 10 carries in the fourth quarter.
"Balance can cause a defense a lot more problems," said Petrino. "It makes it a lot easier to end the game. If you can run the ball in the fourth quarter, eat up the clock, make them have to adjust and come after you, that's when you do get the big plays."
Syracuse trailed North Carolina by 17 points last week before rallying for a 49-47 triple-overtime victory. The Orangemen seemed poised to duplicate the feat against the Cardinals.
After LeFors connected with Bush out of the backfield to give Louisville a 27-10 lead on the first possession of the second half, Syracuse rallied quickly.
R.J. Anderson hit Johnnie Morant on a 42-yard pass, and Walter Reyes scored on a 35-yard run to make it 27-17 in the third.
Collin Barber added a 36-yard field goal as Syracuse closed within 27-20 going into the fourth, but there was no winning rally this week.
"We lost," said Anderson, who was 19-for-30 for 229 yards. "My play really doesn't mean anything because we lost."
Morant had eight catches for 141 yards and returned three kickoffs for 94 yards. Walter Reyes had 16 carries for 87 yards, while Darryl Kennedy scored on 2-yard run in the first and Barber also kicked field goals of 42 and 37 yards.
The Orangemen had time in the waning moments to put together a drive, but Anderson watched his receivers drop three straight catchable passes as the Cardinals took over on downs. Overall, Louisville outgained Syracuse by just 451-446.
"We fell apart," said Syracuse defensive tackle Louis Gachelin. "Defensively, we didn't stop them when we had to, didn't put the pressure on them when we had to."
Some of the loudest cheers of the day came at halftime, when Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim and his team from last season received their national championship rings. The Orangemen, led by freshman forward Carmelo Anthony, beat Kansas in the NCAA title game in New Orleans in April.
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