Syracuse stuns Louisville again, Brinkley sets school 100-yard rushing mark

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Curtis Brinkley accomplished a feat none of the great running backs at Syracuse ever did. Not Jim Brown. Not Ernie Davis. Not Joe Morris.

Brinkley set a Syracuse single-season record Saturday night with his fifth consecutive 100-yard game. But more importantly -- and what Brinkley wanted to talk about -- the Orange stunned Louisville for the second year in a row, defeating the Cardinals 28-21.

"The yards, I mean I pay attention to them, but they don't mean nothing when you're not winning. To win on top of it -- I feel good," said Brinkley, who had 33 carries for 166 yards, both career highs.

"It's definitely amazing to know that I've accomplished that with all the great running backs that have gone here. But records come and go. It was more important to get the W," said Brinkley, who was tied with Morris and James Mungro with four straight 100-yard games.

"Curtis put on a show out there ... but we had a lot of guys step up. It was a great team effort," said Syracuse coach Greg Robinson, noting that Brinkley's performance came against the nation's No. 5 rush defense, allowing 75 yards a game.

"Obviously we didn't make plays ... We had a great start, and then we sputtered," said Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe.

Syracuse (2-6, 1-3) also got big scoring plays from receiver Da'Mon Merkerson and freshman tailback Antwon Bailey to win just its third Big East Conference game under Robinson, who is 3-22 overall in four seasons against conference foes.

Merkerson, a wideout who converted to cornerback this season and then back to receiver, caught a 38-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to give Syracuse a 14-7 lead at halftime.

Bailey, giving Brinkley a breather, made it 21-7 in the third quarter when he shook off several tacklers on a 39-yard scoring run, his first collegiate touchdown.

Syracuse finished its scoring with an 8-yard touchdown toss from Cam Dantley to fullback Tony Fiammetta with 5:16 to play.

"We showed against West Virginia and Pitt that we can come out strong. We had to learn how to finish," Fiammetta said.

Still, Syracuse needed a little luck to pull out the victory.

Syracuse punt returner Mike Williams misplayed a punt and Louisville recovered the fumble but couldn't move the ball on its ensuing possession. On the Cardinals' next possession, Troy Pascley was open downfield but dropped a pinpoint pass.

Louisville (5-3, 1-2), riding a three-game winning streak and coming off a 24-20 upset of then-No. 14 South Florida, pulled to 28-21 when Pascley caught a 37-yard touchdown pass with 3:55 remaining.

The Cardinals had one last chance when Doug Beaumont returned a punt 28 yards, giving Louisville the ball at the Syracuse 44 with 33 seconds to play. But Williams redeemed himself by intercepting Hunter Cantwell's deep pass to lock up the victory.

"It came down to a lot of different things," Cantwell said. "We had a couple (plays) called back and people didn't step up at times. There were little mistakes here and there.

"They (Syracuse) seem to match up well against us," he said.

The Orange were a 37-point underdog last season when they shocked Louisville 38-35 at home, ending the Cardinals' 20-game home winning streak.

"This wasn't a surprise. We knew we were getting better. There are better days ahead. We needed to show people we could win," Robinson said.

Louisville scored off the opening kickoff, driving 93 yards in 12 plays to take a 7-0 six minutes into the game on Vic Anderson's 9-yard run.

But the Cardinals offense sputtered for the remainder of the half as they managed only 52 yards against Syracuse's defense.

The Orange turned to Brinkley on their second possession and the senior capped a six-play, 74-yard drive with a 2-yard run to tie the game at 7-7 with 3:05 to play in the first quarter.

Louisville tightened the game 21-14 with a 17-play drive in the third quarter that lasted nearly nine minutes and covered 85 yards, ending when Cantwell hit fullback Joe Tronzo with a 4-yard pass in the front corner of the end zone.

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