SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse is leaving the Big East Conference with a BIG smile on its face.
Playing in its final Big East home game before leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Orange built a 31-10 lead in the second quarter and rolled to a 45-26 rout of No. 9 Louisville Saturday before 40,312 fans on Homecoming and Senior Day at the Carrier Dome.
It was Syracuse's first win over a top-10 team since the Orange defeated No. 8 Virginia Tech 50-42 in triple overtime on Nov. 9, 2002, at the Carrier Dome.
"We've had a lot of ups and downs here, and it's nice to come up with a big win for us and for the fans," said Syracuse senior safety Shamarko Thomas, who led the Orange with six solo tackles.
The loss spoiled Louisville's perfect season and prevented the Cardinals (9-1, 4-1 Big East) from starting 10-0 for the first time in school history. Louisville can still win the conference title and earn a trip to a BCS bowl game if it defeats Connecticut (1-4) and No. 23 Rutgers (4-0) in its final two Big East games.
"We have to move on from this game," Louisville sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "Tomorrow when we come back to work, it's all about UConn and Rutgers."
Bridgewater, who has been receiving Heisman Trophy attention, completed 36 of 49 passes for 424 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. But with leading rusher Senorise Perry sidelined for most of the game, the Cardinals managed only 48 yards rushing on 17 attempts.
Syracuse (5-5, 4-2) needs to win one its final two games -- at Missouri and at Big East foe Temple -- to qualify for its second bowl game in three years under fourth-year coach Doug Marrone.
The Orange scored on its first three possessions of the second quarter to turn a 10-10 tie into a 31-10 laugher. Quarterback Ryan Nassib and wide receiver Alec Lemon, two of the 15 Orange seniors playing in their final home game, teamed up for the first two touchdowns on 13- and 37-yard passes.
Nassib completed 15 of 23 attempts for 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Lemon caught nine of those passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
After the game, Nassib and Lemon shared a long hug on the field.
"We've been through a lot together and we've experienced a lot together these last four years," Nassib said. "Alex has been such a good player here and I said I was glad he could go out the kind of game he had today."
Syracuse halfback Prince-Tyson Gulley rambled 55 yards down the right sideline on a third-and-2 play to boost Syracuse's lead to 31-10 with 2:13 left in the first half.
The Orange increased its lead to 38-13 on its first possession of the second half. Nassib kept the drive alive by connecting with Lemon for 19 yards on third-and-10 from the Syracuse 26. Halfback Jerome Smith finished the drive with a 35-yard touchdown run on another third-and-2 that the Louisville defense couldn't stop.
The Cardinals, who had won six consecutive Big East games and three in a row over the Orange, lost Perry on its first possession of the game. Perry, who entered the game with a team-leading 736 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, suffered a lower-body injury on his second carry.
A muffed punt by Louisville's Scott Radcliff led to Syracuse's first touchdown on Gulley's 8-yard scamper with 3:13 remaining the first quarter. The Cardinals answered on their next possession as backup running back Corvin Lamb snared Bridgewater's screen pass and scooted 53 yards for a touchdown on his first career reception.
In the third quarter, Bridgewater's 44-yard touchdown pass to Eli Rogers sliced Syracuse's lead to 38-19. But linebacker Lewellyn Coker -- the blocking back in the Orange's goal line offense -- grabbed a 3-yard touchdown pass from Nassib to make it 45-19.
Louisville entered the game as one of six unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. But in the BCS rankings the Cardinals were ranked below two teams with two losses and two teams with one loss because Louisville had barely escaped against lesser opponents.
While they'll plummet in the BCS rankings, the Cardinals still control their BCS bowl destiny.
"I don't have to say anything to these guys," Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said. "They know what's at stake."
Notes: Nassib's 13th completion of the game in the third quarter was his 736th in Big East play, making him the conference's all-time leader over of Rutgers' Ryan Hart (735 completions) from 2002-05. ... Nassib, who owns most of Syracuse's passing records, needs seven yards to pass Marvin Graves as the school's leader in career passing yards. He now has 8,460 career passing yards. ... Syracuse halfback Smith had his fourth consecutive 100-yard game with a career-high 146 yards on 18 carries. ... Louisville's No. 9 ranking was its highest BCS ranking since the Cardinals were No. 6 in December 2006. ... The 31 first-half points and 45 overall points were the most allowed by Louisville since Rutgers scored 49 in the first half and 63 in the game in 2008.