LOUISVILLE — This is not how Louisville wanted to go into rivalry week.
Florida International scored three touchdowns longer than 70 yards to deal the Cardinals a 24-17 shocker Friday night.
Next up for the Cardinals (1-1): at Kentucky, next week.
“We’re going into a tough situation down at Commonwealth, playing UK,” U of L Coach Charlie Strong said. “And right now UK’s a better football team than us. Look at what they have and what we have.
“But it’s so important that we have to learn from this game and we have to learn from the mistakes we made.”
Despite being outgained 446 yards to 293 and with nine first downs to U of L’s 24, FIU (2-0) snapped U of L’s 17-game winning streak over Sun Belt Conference foes. The last SBC team to beat the Cards was Louisiana-Monroe, 40-7, in 1981.
FIU rushed for only 45 yards, its lowest total since being held by Penn State to minus-3 in 2007.
Yet, the Panthers stunned U of L and a Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium crowd of 47,228 with the three long touchdown plays en route to a 21-10 halftime lead.
Winston Fraser scored on a 71-yard interception return. Then, Wesley Carroll connected with T.Y. Hilton for touchdown passes of 74 and 83 yards in a span of less than three minutes. Both came on third-down plays.
Hilton finished with a school-record 201 yards on seven receptions. Carroll went 14-for-21 for 248 yards.
“I’d really like to commend our guys on how hard they played,” Strong said. “We just played from start to finish. But the thing you can’t do is you can’t give up the big plays, and we gave up two big plays where you’re knowing where the receiver is and knowing how explosive T.Y. Hilton is.
“Then, on offense, when you have the opportunities, you have to take advantage of those scoring drives.”
Louisville got a 30-yard field goal by Chris Philpott and, with 41 seconds left in the half, a 6-yard touchdown pass from Will Stein to Michaelee Harris.
Stein had U of L driving on its first possession, going from his 20 to the Panthers’ 36.
On second down, DeVante Parker dropped a Stein pass, setting up third-and-eight.
Fraser then stepped in front of intended receiver Andrell Smith and sprinted down the Louisville sideline for the first score of the night.
Philpott’s field goal came on the fourth play of the second quarter, cutting the gap to 7-3. A play earlier, Stein connected with Josh Chichester, but the tight end couldn’t get a foot down before going out of the back of the end zone.
FIU took only three plays and 1:29 to expand the lead.
Carroll, a Mississippi State transfer who set an FIU record for touchdown passes in a season (16) last year, found Hilton over the middle on third-and-four.
The Sun Belt’s player of the year and FIU’s career leader in several categories, Hilton pulled away from U of L’s pursuers to score from 74 yards with 12:06 left in the half.
The Cardinals went three-and-out, and FIU scored again with 9:28 left.
This time, Carroll hit Hilton on a post pattern, near midfield, for an 83-yarder on a third-and-12 play.
U of L’s late-half touchdown drive was impressive.
Stein led the Cards 89 yards in 12 plays. On the last, he looked right and found Harris on the goal line for a 6-yard tally.
The Cards took the second-half kickoff but went three-and-out, and FIU scored the only points of the third quarter on Jack Griffin’s 29-yard field goal.
When the quarter ended, U of L was in the midst of a 13-play drive that ate up nearly eight minutes.
On fourth-and-one at the FIU 7, though, Jeremy Wright was stoned for a 4-yard loss.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Cards again lost the ball on downs at the FIU 33.
By the time the Cards scored — a 26-yard TD pass from Stein to Parker — only 1:49 remained.
U of L tried an onside kick, but Glen Coleman snared the ball for the Panthers.
FIU went three-and-out for a third time in a row, but U of L had no timeouts, 38 seconds on the clock and 97 yards to go when they got the ball back.
That chance ended when a bobbled hook-and-ladder play was recovered by FIU’s Sam Miller with 10 seconds left.
Stein finished with personal bests for completions (30) and yardage (349).
“Yeah, but a turnover-pick six, that hurts. ... Stats are OK if you win, but if you lose it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Stein was on the run all night, carrying 13 times for 44 yards. However, he was sacked six times and had 44 yards in losses — for a net rush of zero.
Chichester, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound senior, recorded his first career 100-yard game, making six catches for 111 yards. ... U of L’s Wright had more rushing yards than FIU. Wright gained 54 yards on 15 carries. ... Mike Evans and Daniel Brown led U of L tacklers with seven each. FIU’s Jonathan Cyprien had 11 tackles. ... Parker, a freshman out of Ballard High School, got his first start. He replaced Smith, who had started 14 consecutive games. ... Eli Rogers, who had five catches for 44 yards, is the 10th true freshman to play for U of L through two games. ... Stein is the first U of L quarterback to top 300 passing yards since Brian Brohm threw for 467 against Utah in 2007. ... Hilton’s 201 receiving yards are the most by a U of L opponent since Chattanooga’s Cos DeMatteo had 207 yards and three touchdowns in U of L’s 58-30 win in 1999.