Interceptions set stage for victory

CINCINNATI - A pair of first quarter interceptions proved to be crucial in Louisville's 31-24 overtime win at rival Cincinnati. Cardinal Authority spoke with Charles Gaines and Hakeem Smith about their big plays.

Not to be lost in Louisville's overtime victory at Cincinnati are two first quarter turnovers created by the Cardinals defense.

A pair of interceptions were the story of the game's first 15 minutes. The quick plays by Charles Gaines and Hakeem Smith were vital in Louisville securing a 7-0 lead after the opening quarter.

As Louisville took the field prior to the start of the game, Gaines raced to the opposite end zone and had a few words with the UC student section.

"I went down to talk to my fans," Gaines told Cardinal Authority following the 31-24 win. "They don't know it, but Cincinnati fans are my fans. I feel like every stadium we go to that the fans are there to support us."

The junior didn't take long to please his new fans. Following the opening kickoff, a tackle by Brandon Dunn at the line of scrimmage forced the Bearcats into a 3rd and 5 situation.

The defense spent a good share of game prep working on this setting. Apply pressure to UC quarterback Brendon Kay. The scouting report was that Kay became much less accurate when forced out of the pocket and throwing on the run.

Kay dropped back, the defensive line closed in. Kay looked to his left and saw a receiver streaking up the sideline. Gaines read it perfectly, sitting back long enough to tease Kay into the 30-yard throw and snagged his fifth interception of the season from the fingertips of the Bearcat receiver.

"That was because of great communication on that play," Gaines explained. "Coach told me stay back because the play was going to come and I just made it."

The play gave the Cardinals the ball on their own 40 yard line and four plays later Teddy Bridgewater found DeVante Parker for a 36 yard touchdown pass for the game's first score.

"We put the ball back in Teddy's hands and he did what he does best," Gaines said. "He made us drive right down their throats. That's what we needed."

The Cincinnati offense was on the move with its next possession. The Bearcats marched 53 yards on 10 plays to Louisville 25 yard line. On 3rd & 10, sophomore defensive end Sheldon Rankins hurried Kay into a throw that found senior safety Hakeem Smith waiting at the 5 yard line.

"We forced the quarterback into some bad throws," explained Smith, who made his school record tying 50th consecutive start. "That's what we game planned for. We were able to get him out of the pocket and scrambling, so he threw some bad balls. We were to capitalize on them. There were a couple more we left out there that we could have had, but we got it done."

It was Smith's third interception of the season and ended a nearly certain scoring drive for the hosts.

The Cardinals now have 16 interceptions on the season, which is the highest total since the 2005 squad had 17.

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