Cards come up short against Cincinnati

Louisville played hard Friday night, but came up short in a 35-27 loss to Cincinnati, the two-time defending Big East champs, in front of 55,106 fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and an ESPN television audience.

In a game that could be viewed as a measuring stick for the University of Louisville football team, and its program, the Cardinals proved to their fans that they don't have far to go to compete with the best in the Big East Conference.

And they also showed that they have some room to grow too.

Louisville learned that much in its 35-27 loss to Cincinnati, the two-time defending Big East champs, in front of 55,106 fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and an ESPN television audience.

Bearcats quarterback Zach Collaros threw a career-high five touchdown passes to offset another career-best performance by UofL running back Bilal Powell and helped Cincinnati retain the Keg of Nails in the back-and-forth conference opener for both teams.


Bilal Powell's 85 yard touchdown thrilled the crowd in Louisville's narrow loss to Cincinnati Friday night.
Powell rushed for 209 yards six days after rushing for 204 against Memphis as the Cards gained 228 yards on the ground against the eighth-best rushing defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Senior quarterback Adam Froman also completed 18 of 27 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, but it was the Cards' missed opportunities - especially in the red zone - that stuck in their crawl afterwards.

"We missed two field goals, that was critical," UofL coach Charlie Strong said. "We needed a good start in the conference, but it didn't happen. So we have to go out and have to improve. We need to practice better and we have to correct the errors.

"Guys just have to go out and finish and execute. We had a chance to put a team away. We had a chance to go out and make a third-down stop. We have to go and make that stop...If you look at it we had the ball down there twice in the red zone and we came away with no points. We have to score when we get the ball in the red zone."

Things didn't start well for Louisville.

The Cards went three-and-out on their first possession, then on UC's first play from scrimmage, they gave up a 47-yard touchdown pass from Collaros to D.J. Woods.

Chris Philpott missed a 40-yard field goal attempt on UofL's second possession before the Cards' offense got some help from their defense.

Junior defensive tackle Greg Scruggs intercepted Collaros at UC's 27 and returned it to the 24.

UofL (3-3, 0-1) needed just five plays to tie the game on Froman's 11-yard touchdown pass to Josh Chichester and Philpott's PAT.

The Bearcats (3-3, 1-0) responded right away. They embarked on a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive that was capped by Collaros' 10-yard TD pass to Armon Binns.

The Cards had an even quicker answer, though. That's because Powell electrified the home crowd with an 85-yard touchdown run that tied the game.

"That was an unbelievable run," Strong said. "It looked like he ran through a tackle and then once he broke away and a guy tried to undercut him and he stepped over him when he scored. But he did run through a tackle.

"Everyone else needs to play like him."

UofL's defense came up big again on UC's next possession when senior defensive end Malcolm Tatum forced Isaiah Pead to fumble and Scruggs recovered at the UofL 47.

Then the Cards use some trickery to take their first lead. On first-and-10 from the UC 39 on UofL's ensuing possession wide receiver Doug Beaumont - in his first game since injuring his knee - completed a 27-yard pass to Froman.

Seven plays later Philpott's 26-yard field goal gave the Cards their first lead, 17-14.

The Bearcats went three-and-out on their next possession to set up UofL's offense for its longest scoring drive of the game. This one - 12 plays that covered 69 yards - ended with Powell's 9-yard touchdown run that gave the Cards a 10-point lead (24-14).

Cincinnati, though, wouldn't go away. The Bearcats quickly responded thanks to Collaros' 31-yard TD pass to Binns to pull within 24-21 at halftime.

Louisville had a chance to add to its lead early in the third quarter, but Philpott missed from 40 yards. UC made the Cards pay. The Bearcats went on a clock-eating, 14-play, 77-yard drive that ended with Collaros' 14-yard TD toss to Woods to take a 28-24 lead.

The Cards cut that lead to 28-27 early in the fourth quarter on Philpott's 37-yard field goal, but could've had more. UofL had first-and-10 at the UC 17, but the drive stalled thanks in part to an illegal shift penalty on third down.

On UC's next possession Binns burned Bobby Burns for a 62-yard touchdown from Collaros to make it 35-27. Once again the Cards drove into Cincinnati's red zone, but failed to leave with points. They had first-and-goal at the 8, but after Powell was hit for a 4-yard loss Froman threw three straight incomplete passes.

"Again and again it came down to us stopping ourselves," Froman said.

UofL next hosts Connecticut at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday at PJCS.


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