The 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman from Paducah, Kentucky made an impressive debut in first career start against a tough Huskies defense in blistering cold weather in Hartford. CT. Filling in for injured quarterback Brian Brohm, Cantwell completed 16-25 passes for 274 yards and one touchdown to lead No. 16 Louisville to a 30-20 win over UConn.
Though he was sacked three times, Cantwell guided the Cardinals offense to 24 first downs and 454 yards total offense.
Junior running back Michael Bush also helped take pressure off Cantwell, softening the Big East's top-ranked defense with 122 yards on 25 carries. Bush, who had missed Louisville's previous two games with a bruised foot, also scored three touchdowns. He topped the 1,000 yard mark for the season and his 23 touchdowns set a new U of L single-season record.
The Cardinals started the game with a bang, taking a 7-0 lead barely two minutes into the first quarter when Bush scored his first touchdown of the night on a five yard run. The Huskies tied the game at 7 early in the second quarter when D.J. Hernandez found Jason Williams from 12 yards out.
Bush then scored from one-yard out after the Cardinals recovered a fumbled punt on the UConn 12 to take a 14-7 lead. Cantwell then hit Mario Urrutia for a 46 yard touchdown down the left sideline to extend the Cardinals lead to 21-7 with 2:56 left in the second quarter. However, Hernandez quickly moved the Huskies downfield after the ensuing kickoff before connecting with Brandon Young to make the score 21-14 at the break.
Louisville scored on the first possession of the second half when Bush scored his third touchdown from 5-yards to give the Cardinals a 27-14 lead. The Cardinals had several opportunities to blow the game open in the third quarter, but managed just an Art Carmody 38 yard field the rest of the quarter after bogging down three times in Huskies territory.
William Gay blocked a 24 yard UConn field goal attempt midway through the third quarter and linebacker Nate Harris forced a Hernandez fumble that was recovered by Amobi Okoye. Louisville's Mozell Axon also recovered a botched UConn kickoff.
Perhaps the key stat of the game, Louisville recovered four of the Huskies' five fumbles on the night.
Ahead 30-14, Hernandez connected with Nollis Dewar for a 57-yard touchdown with 4:21 left in the game to cut Louisville's lead to 30-20. Nate Harris stopped Hernandez short of the goal line on the Huskies two-point attempt.
The Huskies threatened to score again late in the game, but failed to score with a first and ten from the U of L 10 yard line. After two Hernandez passes fell incomplete in the endzone, Chad Rimpsey forced and recovered a fumble on 3rd and 10 to end the Huskies' comeback attempt.
The win game Louisville their third straight season with at least 9 wins, the first time that has happened in school history.
Next up for the Cardinals is the Toyota Gator Bowl Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Florida. Louisville will face an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, most likely Miami or Virginia Tech, who lost to Florida State Saturday night in the ACC championship game.