The University of Louisville football team survived with a 27-25 victory over South Florida on Saturday when Teddy Bridgewater hit Eli Rogers for a touchdown with 1:35 left and then Adrian Bushell intercepted a hail mary on the final play.
But the Cardinals might not have been in position for the win had it not been for an amazing goal-line stand in the third quarter by the defense.
Louisville's defense gave up 386 total yards but didn't let South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels get less than a half when he needed it.
South Florida had five plays – including four from the 1-yard-line – but didn't come away with any points. An off sides penalty on U of L negated a touchdown on the first attempt on fourth down.
"Marcus might have had the biggest play," linebacker Preston Brown said.
Added U of L coach Charlie Strong: "They got five downs but luckily we jumped off sides on the touchdown play, so we were able to go back out there and stop them on fourth down. That was really big for us."
The defensive stand was a statement for a defense that has not always played up to its potential this season. Strong said he hasn't "had one like that," during his three years as the head coach at U of L.
"This is our home, this is our field and our territory," defensive lineman Roy Philon said. "We feel like a fourth-and-one stand is real big for us. It lets you know we are not going to lay down for you."
U of L had just taken a 21-10 lead when the Bulls marched right down the field and looked like they were going to cut into the lead.
After Lindsey Lamar ran for three yards on a first-and-goal from the 4-yard-line, U of L linebacker George Durant stopped South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels for no gain on second-and-one. Jamaine Brooks then stopped Demetri Murray for no gain over the left side of the line on third-and-one.
"Whenever you get in a situation like that, you tell your defensive linemen to stay low and then let the linebackers run over the top and try to knock the ball back," Strong said. "It was so critical to get penetration, grab legs and make sure the ball does not fall forward. Make sure to knock it back."
Murray scored on fourth-down over the left side, but Marcus Smith had jumped off sides and made contact, negating the play. Also on that play, defensive lineman Brandon Dunn went down with an injury.
So as the Bulls tried again on fourth-down, it was Roy Philon and Jamaine Brooks who blew up the line in the middle. Preston Brown came over the top and stuck Daniels as he tried to lean over the goal-line on the left side.
Philon and Brown were both credited with a half of a tackle on the play as the Cardinals left the field celebrating.
"Some of the (offensive) guards were taking smack, saying we are going to come your way," Philon said. "I let them know you are not going to get in right here. I stood my ground and said, ‘You are not going to get into this A gap'.
"When I got up the first thing I looked at was the refs to see if they scored. When I saw they (signaled no), then I knew I did my job."