The 12th ranked Louisville Cardinals used a balanced offensive attack and capitalized on 2 first half turnovers, building a 28-7 first half lead, then held off a Wildcat comeback, downing the Cats 31-24.
Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm passed for 179 yards and rushed for two first half touchdowns. Runningback Michael Bush rushed for 128 yards and added two touchdowns of his own for the Cards as the Cards broke open a 7-7 1st quarter with three unanswered second period touchdowns, taking a 21-point lead into the locker at the half. The Cards held the Cats to -19 yards rushing and scored two of those touchdowns off of Wildcats turnovers.
"We have to learn to protect the quarterback much better," said coach Rich Brooks after the game, "Andre was under pressure the entire half." Louisville's Elvis Dumerville had six sacks, a UL record, four of them in the first half.
"People are going to be stripping at him all season long. Andre has got to learn to hang on to the football, period. Quarterbacks get sacked all the time but they don't have to fumble. It's not like he was getting blindsided. He will learn from this but it was a very costly lesson." the coach added. Woodson lost the ball twice in the first half, leading to two Cardinal touchdowns.
But the Kentucky Wildcats came out in the second half ready to play. Admonished at halftime by coach Rich Brooks to play aggressively, Rafael Little finally got the ground game going and Woodson completed a big 53-yard pass to Tommy Cook to get the Wildcats within striking distance for Taylor Begley to kick a 36-yard field goal and the Cats were off to the races in the second half.
Kentucky's defense would hold the Cardinals in their first possession and the Cats would take advantage. Rafael Little broke free for a 51-yard gain and Woodson would complete a 21-yard touchdown pass to Scott Mitchell to draw the Cats to within 28-17.
On the next UL possession the Wildcat defense would bend but not break. Brohm moved the ball upfield with a series of short passes and Michael Bush would be on the receiving end of a 17-yard pass to the Wildcats 20, but the Cardinals had to settle for its only score of the second half, a field goal, stretching the lead to 31-17.
Woodson would then navigate the team up the field with passes to Jacob Tamme, Little and Keenan Burton. At the 11:52 mark of the fourth quarter Woodson capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Tamme and the Cats were within just seven points, 31-24.
The Wildcats stopped the Cards on the ensuing kickoff on their 7-yard line and Louisville was forced to punt just three plays later, only a 32-yard effort that gave the Cats the ball on the Cardinals 41-yard line. But the Wildcats' fortunes would turn on their first offensive effort, a mishandled snap that resulted in a 12-yard loss. Two plays later Elvis Dumerville picked up his 6th sack of the day (a Louisville record) and the Cats were forced to punt.
"We called a play and then changed it at the last minute," Brooks said, "We didn't get our feet set and it really cost us."
Kentucky held UL to just three plays once again. On the punt, Jacob Tamme partially blocked the kick and the Cats recovered in great field position. Woodson would mount a drive that would get Kentucky to within two yards of deadlocking the game. The sophomore quarterback first completed a 7-yard pass to Mitchell. Then Arliss Beach would rush for a 19-yard gain to the 7-yard line setting up the play that would inevitably cost the game for Kentucky. Andre Woodson rushed around left and was hit at the 2-yard line, fumbling the ball for the third time in the game. The Cardinals recovered at the 6:19 mark.
The Cardinals then chewed up the remaining time on the clock. But the Wildcats would have one last chance to change the outcome of the game. The Cardinals had the ball at midfield, 3rd down and 10 with 2:07 remaining. Should the Wildcats stop the Cards on the next play they would have gotten the ball back with time to score. But Michael Bush ended those hopes with a 13-yard run, giving the Cardinals a first down and delivering the final dagger through the heart of the Wildcats.
"It just makes you sick to your stomach that we had a chance to get this win and let it get away. We have to learn to finish," said a frustrated Brooks, "hopefully these young players will see what they need to do and maybe we can get one of these big upsets in the near future."
Woodson ended the game 17-27 for 278 yards and two touchdown passes. But his two fumbles were costly. Rafael Little rushed for 71 yards in 8 attempts. Arliss Beach added 32 yards on the ground.
Kentucky had two major injuries. Lamar Mills and Glenn Holt Jr. Holt Jr., was injured in the second half diving for a pass. He was carried off the field. "Glenn is at the hospital," Brooks said, "He never lost consciousness or feeling. It was a little scarey and we are doing an MRI just to make sure. I am thinking he will be sore but ok. Lamar Mills has an injury to his lateral ligament and I do not think it is just a strain."