Despite being down by 21, the visiting UCF Knights didn't flinch. The Cardinals defense had held the UCF offense in check through two and half quarters, but were unable to do so any further. The Knights scored on their final five possessions to claim a stunning 38-35 victory.
For the fifth time in seven games, the Teddy Bridgewater guided offense scored on the opening drive of a game. The Cardinals continued to drive the field with ease on their second drive until a punishing hit to tight end Ryan Hubbell forced a fumble at the UCF 3-yard line. The turnover was the second consecutive game that U of L lost the ball by fumble inside the red zone.
U of L's offense resumed it's pace on their final drive of the first half with a 10 play, 75-yard drive, capped off with a touchdown pass to DeVante Parker to grab a 14-7 lead at the break.
Dominique Brown accounted for 65 yards on the Cardinals second half opening touchdown drive. Holding a 28-7 lead, the offense only mustered 16 yards on its next three possessions. Senorise Perry's unfortunate fumble at the U of L 15 yard line was followed by two punts. Louisville didn't score again until it had to late in the fourth quarter to temporarily regain the lead.
While the offense gained 445 yards, 341 through the air, it never found a rhythm during the second half. The two fumbles cost the Cardinals a touchdown and led to another. Dominique Brown gained 88 yards on 12 carries, an average of 7.3 per run. However the running back rotation may have worked against the Cardinals on Friday night as Perry and Dyer managed just 21 yards on 9 carries.
The Cardinals entered the game ranked among the nation's best and played as such for two and a half quarters. The defense disappeared after the team jumped out to a 21 point lead in the third quarter.
UCF managed 177 total yards in the first half, but moved easily throughout the second half gaining 269 against the Cardinals.
Louisville struggled to apply any pressure on UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, registering no sacks and just one tackle for a loss in the game.
"Sometimes when you get your back against the wall you've just got to be able to stand up and make some plays and we didn't," head coach Charlie Strong said afterwards. "We weren't able to get any pressure. We got no sacks. We got one turnover early in the game. You've got to create disruption. You've got to be able to create pressure and we didn't do that on defense."
The highlight of the game came when Louisville native James Quick picked up a fumbled punt early in the third quarter and ran 30 yards for his career touchdown to create a 28-7 lead for the Cardinals.
The struggle to contain kick off returns continued, as UCF averaged 23.8 yards on four returns.
Louisville had it's seventh victory within grasp and let it slip away. Dating back to 1980, this is the first time Louisville gave up a 21-point lead that's resulted in a loss.
It is an very disappointing loss for a team that was expected to reach a second consecutive BCS bowl. Louisville's lapses on both sides of the ball, which has occurred at times throughout the season, cost the program it's opportunity to remain undefeated. Be it a lack of a killer instinct, or conservative play-calling with a lead, the team - players and coaches - will need to use this loss as a growing moment for the future.
"It won't affect the next game because we've been down this road before," said Strong. "We have a veteran group here and they've seen this happen before so I don't think it will affect them for the next game. We've just got to go get ready to play the next one."