SYRACUSE Happy endings arent necessarily limited to fairy tales.
But rarely are they associated with the Syracuse University football team.
That usual gloom-and-doom feeling hovering around the Orange changed to jubilation on Saturday, as the seniors made the most of their last home game, and Syracuse won its final Big East game at the Carrier Dome by knocking off previously undefeated No. 11/10 Louisville, 45-26, in front of 40,312 energetic fans.
It was Syracuses first win over a ranked opponent this season and first over a top-10 ranked foe since beating Virginia Tech in 2002. Its last win over Louisville came in 2008.
Syracuse will close out the season with road games at Missouri and Temple on Nov. 17 and 23, respectively. A win in either would make the Orange eligible for a bowl berth.
I am proud of the seniors in this group to be able to go out with the win, said Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, whose team improved to 5-5 overall and 4-2 in the conference.
Obviously some of those seniors played extremely well for us. Obviously, Ryan Nassib and Alec Lemon had great days. Marcus Sales helped quite a bit. Defensively, Shamarko (Thomas) did a nice job.
Lemon finished with 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns on nine catches, five of which came on pivotal third-down plays for the Orange. It was the second straight 100-yard effort for Lemon, and his 25th consecutive game with a reception, tied for the fifth-longest streak in school history.
Nassib completed 15-of-23 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns in his Dome finale and what he said might be the biggest win of his career.
Id have to think about that but off the top of my head, probably, Nassib said. Its probably the one that Ill most remember.
Thomas, the senior safety, finished with a team-high six solo tackles. He was emotional after the game, and leapt into the crowd after the clock expired to celebrate the win.
I was just excited. Like I said, weve been through a lot, Thomas said. The win was for the fans, it wasnt really for us. Just to see the crowd so happy, it got me excited and I just jumped in.
The Orange gained 524 yards of total offense, extending a school record with its fifth game of 500-plus yards this year. It was also the teams third game this year without a turnover all three for wins.
The running game was as dominant as it has been all season. Jerome Smith eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight game, finishing with 146 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Prince-Tyson Gulley added 100 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Gulleys second score came on a 55-yard run with just over two minutes left in the first half to put the Orange up 31-10 after the extra point.
Gulleys score was the last of three unanswered touchdowns for the Orange, which broke open a game that was tied at 10 apiece entering the quarter.
Louisville (9-1, 4-1) trailed by 18 or more points the rest of the game.
I am very embarrassed today for our program, said Louisville coach Charlie Strong, whose team dropped a half-game behind Rutgers for first place in the conference. We didnt play well. The preparation and the execution werent there. We didnt play well in all three phases, offense, defense and the kicking game. We have a lot to learn from this game.
The Cardinals were held to 48 net yards rushing, playing most of the game without starter Senorise Perry, who left with an injury in the first quarter.
The crowd was loud and enthusiastic from the onset and stayed that way throughout the entire afternoon.
Louisville had to burn two timeouts on third downs on its opening drive because of the noise, and was called for two false starts.