It was a typical "they crushed our hopes again" day for Syracuse Orange fans.
Riding a two-game winning streak, which featured beating West Virginia and Cincinnati on the road, and one victory away from qualifying for a bowl game since 2004, Syracuse lost to the Louisville Cardinals, 28-20, at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
The loss crushed any chance of chasing first-place Pittsburgh, which currently has a one-game lead on SU in the Big East standings.
Big East Conference Standings
After a decade of losing, SU football supporters were eager to run the table, finish 6-1 in the conference and place a lot of pressure on the Panthers for the Big East BCS bowl bid.
The circumstances seemed perfect. Louisville hadn't won a Big East road game in 11 tries, didn't have its starting quarterback (Adam Froman) or running back (Bilal Powell) and the remaining schedule featured four teams that entered the weekend with a combined 15-16 overall record.
But that's the thing about being a Syracuse supporter. When the circumstances look favorable, cover your eyes.
"(Syracuse) learned a hard lesson at the Carrier Dome," wrote ESPN.com's Rich Cimini in a post-game column. "It takes more than a day or month or a season to reverse nearly a decade of disappointment. Sometimes it's a two-steps-forward, one-step-backward process, and Syracuse went back."
Cimini is right, the Syracuse football team probably did learn a lesson Saturday. The story is different for Syracuse sports fans. This wasn't anything out of the ordinary. They've seen this before.
It began with an early first-quarter sack by Louisville linebacker Daniel Brown, who came untouched off the edge and stripped SU quarterback Ryan Nassib. Teammate Antwone Canady recovered the fumble at the Syracuse 41-yard line, and the Cardinals scored three plays later for a 7-0 lead.
"They preached it all week in practice," Brown said to the local media after the game. "They were like, 'Daniel, you have to come off the edge every time like your head is on fire,' so that's what I tried to do and it worked."
From there it was the Louisville power running game, SU miscues and inability to seize opportunities that did the Orange in.
"(Louisville) did what most teams haven't been able to do in picking up the Orange pressure and scoring multiple touchdowns," wrote ESPN.com's Big East blogger Brian Bennett on Sunday.
Brent Axe, a Syracuse sports-talk radio host and columnist for the Post-Dispatch, had these thoughts on SU's loss:
"...at some point your defense wasn't going to have an overwhelming performance and the offense, specifically Ryan Nassib, would have to create some drives on their own."
"Well, here was that example."
"But I don't blame Nassib... I don't think his coaches put him in the right position to make plays and he was under heavy pressure all day."
"That said, it did expose a flaw that has been hidden by the great performances of the defense the last couple games."
"The offense needs another play maker."
The play maker should have been Syracuse wide receiver Alec Lemon but fate had other plans.
After the Cardinals scored an early second-half TD, the Orange, trailing 21-17, tried to respond quickly. On a first down play near midfield, Syracuse called a play-action pass, which freed up Lemon near the goal line. Nassib tossed a catchable ball towards a wide open Lemon, who couldn't bring it in.
"SU's margin for error is so pencil thin it cannot turn a first down at the Louisville 41 into a Louisville first down at the SU 41 via a turnover," said Syracuse Post-Standard writer Dave Rahmer on Monday in his detailed breakdown of the loss. "It cannot give away good field position with special-teams penalties. It cannot have a 25-yard Delone Carter run negated by a holding penalty. It cannot drop a potential game-changing touchdown pass."
After that, the Cardinals defense held the Orange offense in check -- just 62 total yards in the second half.
"The effort, as it has been for each of the 21 games of the Doug Marrone era, was present. The execution was too often absent," wrote Rahme on Monday. "End of story. It is why the Syracuse university football team, 30 minutes away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2004, will have to wait another week to see if it can attain the oft-stated goal."
The Orange football ride isn't over. There's still a lot of good football to be played in the 2010 season.
Syracuse should easily win one of its last three games and qualify for a bowl game -- according to two websites SU could play at Yankee Stadium in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 30.
The Orange will also finish the season with a overall record that met preseason expectations and then some.
Just think, for at least one Monday it feels like the old Mondays after a loss -- you know the ones that meant a projected win didn't happen.
Heck, Syracuse was projected to win! That's a victory in itself. Let's hope the trend continues.