With a defense that has been dominating opponents of late and an offense that enjoyed its best outing of the season a weekend prior, Louisville entered Saturday afternoon's contest against visiting Virginia as a two touchdown favorite. However the Cardinals received a much stiffer test than anticipated and needed to recover an onside kick to secure a 38-31 win.
Cardinals starter Kyle Bolin struggled throughout, completing just 10 of 21 attempts for 139 yards and a touchdown. Despite the numbers not being there, Petrino was pleased with Bolin's effort and leadership.
"He is a great competitor, he is a great leader and I think his leadership has really helped us," said Petrino.
Running back Brandon Radcliff rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns. U of L's reserve quarterbacks also set a scoring drive when Lamar Jackson took a second quarter snap and rushed 45 yards to the Virginia 20 yard line, setting up a pass from Reggie Bonnafon to Jaylen Smith on the next play for the team's first touchdown.
Louisville also received a touchdown on a 21-yard pass from Bolin to tight end Cole Hikutini and a fourth quarter 1-yard rushing score from L.J. Scott. Senior kicker John Wallace put the Cardinals on the scoreboard first with a 20-yard first quarter field goal.
Linebacker Keith Kelsey led the Cardinals with 14 total tackles. Devonte Fields and Sheldont Rankins each recorded a sack.
Louisville improves to 6-4 overall, making the program bowl eligible for a sixth consecutive season.
Play of the Game
There are a number of plays that could get the nod, but it was Brandon Radcliff's 36-yard fourth quarter touchdown run that stands out.
With the Cardinals nurising a 31-24 advantage midway through the final quarter, head coach Bobby Petrino turned to Radcliff for quality yards as the hosts attempted to put the game out of reach. Facing a 2nd and 4, Petrino called a sweep right and after taking the pitch from Kyle Bolin, Radcliff split a few defenders a raced to the end zone.
Two plays earler, Radcliff converted a 3rd and 1 at Louisville's 27 yard line when he broke free up the middle for a 31 yard gain.
Stat of the Game
Zero. Entering the contest, Louisville checked in at No.4 in the nation with 15 interceptions and facing a Virginia quarterback that had tossed a nation's-leading 14 picks before arriving at the Derby City, the expectation was the Cardinals defense would add to Matt Johns total. Johns had thrown at least one interception in the seven games, but remained error free on Saturday to help keep the Cavaliers in the game.
Sophomore cornerback Trumaine Washington appeared to have snagged his fifth of the season, but official replay overruled.
Officiating Upsets UVA
Virginia head coach Mike London made it known that he was upset with a pair of officiating calls during his team's loss.
London, along with the UVA support staff, believe the officials should have thrown a flag on the muffed punt that led to a Louisville recovery and eventual touchdown. He described the play as "the turning point in the game."
"When you hit a defensive player like that, you have to allow a guy the opportunity to catch a punt, he's considered a defensless player," London said. "It's unfortunate, it really is.
"I can disagree with that and obviously the mechanisms in place for us to do what we do with the ACC, but I tell you that's a tough one right there."
London was also disappointed in the officials throwing a flag for illegal formation on its initial on-side kick attempt that the Cavaliers had recovered.
Following London's press conference, UVA sports information read the rules pertaining to each situation to the gathered media while the head coach couldn't get out of the room quick enough.
What We Learned
Louisville is still an improving team. While the blowout victory over Syracuse a weekend prior left the feeling that the Cardinals offense had found a rythm with Bolin behind center, it proved on Saturday that it continues to have its struggle and following weeks of domination, the defense allowed Virginia to compile 354 of total offense. Despite the struggles, the Cardinals continue to prove that they know how to finish on the right side of a close ball game and Petrino believes the key has been improving balance.
"We go a lot more balance," he said. "We have the ability to both run the ball and pass it, that helps a lot. Defensively, we continue to play hard."