The Cardinals led for the games first 54 minutes, but it was the higher ranked Hokies that came away with a 35-24 victory. Trailing 24-13 early in the fourth quarter, Virginia Tech scored 22 unanswered points, 15 coming off two Louisville turnovers.
"We're lucky to come out of here with a win," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "I thought Louisville was one tough team. We played Virginia Tech football in the second half and kept battling when we were behind."
Leading by 11 early in the four quarter, Louisville turned the ball over three times in the games final 14 minutes. The Hokies cut the Cardinals lead to 24-21 on Cedric Humes touchdown run. The Hokies drove 54 yards in two only two plays after Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell fumbled on the Virginia Tech 47 yard line.
"I thought we conducted our business the way we were supposed to conduct it," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "We left it all out on the field. The turnovers in the fourth quarter hurt us, but I'm very proud of our team."
The Cardinals started the game strong, and jumped out to a 14-3 lead after the first quarter. Louisville opened the game with an impressive 82 yard drive that was capped by Hunter Cantwell's 13 yard touchdown strike to Mario Urrutia. The drive was kept alive by Kolby Smith's 33 yard fake punt run on 4th and 6 from the 30 yard line, while Michael Bush rushed for 37 yards on the drive.
"The main reason I tried the fake punt was to stop them from trying to block our punts the rest of the game," said Petrino.
Hunter Cantwell committed four turnovers
and was sacked four times.
Virginia Tech countered with a 37 yard field goal on their first possession. But the Cardinals immediately answered with another score when Cantwell connected with Joshua Tinch for a 39 yard touchdown strike on a drive aided heavily by two Virginia Tech personal fouls for a 14-3 lead. After the touchdown, Hokie All-American cornerback Jimmy Williams was ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike behavior.
"I'm not happy with some of the things that happened in the first half - let's just leave it at that," Beamer said of his teams personal foul penalties and Marcus Vick's stomping on Elvis Dumervil's leg when the Louisville star was on the ground.
Midway through the second quarter, Virginia Tech's Roland Minor intercepted Cantwell to give the Hokies great field position near midfield. Virginia Tech quickly capitalized on Louisville's first turnover when Vick hit Justin Harper for a 33 yard touchdown strike to cut the Cardinals lead to 14-10 late in the first half. Louisville took a 17-10 halftime lead after Art Carmody's 35 yard field goal with 2:32 before intermission.
"I thought they did a good job of mixing it up offensively and keeping us off balance early in the game," Beamer said.
Neither team found much success offensively in the third quarter, though Virginia Tech cut Louisville's lead to 17-13 when Brandon Pace connected on a 28 yard field goal with 3:12 left in the quarter.
"I thought our defense did a great job of holding up early, though we gave up some things in the fourth quarter," Petrino said. "I thought the biggest turning point in the game was our inability to convert two third and ones early in the third quarter which allowed them to keep the ball alot longer in the second half." For the game, Louisville converted just 5-of-15 third downs.
Louisville answered early in the fourth quarter as Cantwell hit tight end Gary Barnidge for a 29 yard touchdown. The Cards went 58 yards in just two plays as Harry Douglas ripped off a 29 yard gain on a reverse.
Louisville ran for 173 yards, led by running back Michael Bush's 94 yards on 16 carries. Mario Urrutia led the Cards with six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown. Cantwell, U of L's Gator Bowl MVP, completed 15-37 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked four times, threw three interceptions and fumbled once.
"Hunter gave great effort, and got hit harder than he's ever been hit," Petrino added. "He's a tough young man. He gave us a chance to be in the game at the end."
Virginia Tech rushed for 230 yards, but limited Vick to just 10 net rushing yards. The elusive Hokie quarterback also threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and was sacked three times, twice by Louisville linebacker Nate Harris.
"I told the team after the game I was proud of them and the class they showed while they were down here," Petrino said. "I'm proud of this group of seniors. They've really elevated this program."