SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The season has reached a pivotal point for struggling Syracuse, and the Orange are bracing for a Louisville team that has to be fired up.
Embattled fourth-year Syracuse coach Greg Robinson has won only two of 24 Big East games, and one of those was a 38-35 stunner at Louisville last fall. Taj Smith caught a pass and raced 79 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play, and the Orange, a 36½ -point underdog, were on the way to a stunning upset that ended the Cardinals' home winning streak at 20.
The Cardinals, picked to finish seventh in the conference, have won three straight and are in the race for the league title as they prepare for a chance at redemption.
"Coach has preached to us they probably want to get revenge," Syracuse wideout Donte Davis said. "We have to weather the storm. Everybody still has in their mind that last year we did it and we can do it again."
Although Syracuse's win over the Cards was only a year ago, it seems like a lifetime.
Quarterback Andrew Robinson is on the bench. Smith gave up his final year of eligibility to give the NFL a shot. And Mike Williams, who had five catches for 83 yards and one touchdown in last year's game, is out because of academic issues.
On the other side, Louisville Coach Steve Kragthorpe has four new assistant coaches, a new quarterback, and a new trio of starting linebackers. Kragthorpe also had to replace his top three receivers and place-kicker Art Carmody, who scored more points than any other kicker in NCAA history.
"It's been a quick learn for those guys," Kragthorpe said. "We've made some improvement, but we've got to make a lot of improvement to be good down the stretch."
Both teams are coming off games against South Florida. Syracuse lost to the Bulls, 45-13, on Oct. 18. In the second half, the Orange were outscored 24-0 and gained only nine yards offensively.
The Cardinals upset USF 24-20 a week ago to earn 15 votes in this week's AP Top 25.
Louisville's defense held the Bulls to just eight rushing yards while the Cardinals had five sacks and forced two interceptions. Receiver Scott Long had five catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter.