Cards escape Bearcats upset bid, 23-17

No. 7 Louisville (6-0) stayed unbeaten Saturday afternoon with a hard fought, 23-17, win over Big East rival Cincinnati (3-4, 0-2) at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

No. 7 Louisville improved to 6-0 for the first time since 1972 Saturday afternoon at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium with a win over Big East rival Cincinnati. But it wasn't easy.

Even with quarterback Brian Brohm's return to the starting lineup after sitting out the last two games with an injured thumb, the Cardinals needed a Gavin Smart pass deflection in the endzone with three seconds left in the game to preserve a hard fought, 23-17 win.

"It took until the last play to finish it, but we got it done," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "I've learned that they're all going to be battles the rest of the way."

"It was nerve-racking, but our defense did a great job," Brohm said of Cincinnati's final possession. "Our defense put out a lot of fires today. We need to get our edge back and I think we will."

Brohm threw for 324 yards, one touchdown and an interception, but the Cardinals offense continued to struggle inside the red-zone, settling for three short Art Carmody field goals.

"Maybe I wasn't quite as accurate, but I don't want to put that on the thumb," Brohm said. "I made those throws all week in practice and should have been able to (today). The interception I threw was a dumb decision by me and I shouldn't have done it. I'm not used to doing that. When the offense isn't clicking, you look at the quarterback."

The Bearcats jumped out to an early lead against the heavily favored Cardinals, who have now won 15 straight games at home. After Louisville tied the score at 3, Cincinnati marched 78-yards on 17 plays to reclaim a 10-3 advantage midway through the second quarter.


Louisville's defense allowed 212 yards rushing
against UC, but made the big play when it
had to at the end. (AP)

Carmody then connected on his second field to cut the margin to four, and Louisville recovered a Dustin Grutza fumble at midfield that the Cardinals turned into seven points when Brohm found tight end Gary Barnidge from one-yard out for a 13-10 lead at halftime.

After intermission, Louisville's struggles continued offensively and the Cards didn't appear sharp in building a 23-10 lead with late in the fourth quarter. Freshman running back Anthony Allen gave Louisville some breathing room – and a 20-10 lead - when he scored from 17-yards out with 3:21 left in third quarter to cap a 2-play, 76-yard scoring drive. Allen's touchdown was set up by a 59-yard Brohm completion to Barnidge.

Things looked well in hand for the Cardinals when Carmody made his third field goal of the game with 6:09 left in the contest. But the Bearcats didn't go quietly, marching 72-yards on seven plays that was capped by Grutza's 18-yard touchdown pass with 4:20 remaining.

The Cardinals tried to run out the clock, but were forced to punt and pinned the Bearcats deep in their own territory. Cincinnati, forced to use all three of their timeouts on Louisville's final possession, took over with 2:38 remaining at their own eight. But the Bearcats had one final scare for the Cardinals, moving rapidly downfield to the U of L 16, before Grutza's final pass attempt on 4th down was batted down in the endzone.

Grutz threw for 129 yards and ran for 75 more. Brohm completed 20-37 passes, but threw a fourth quarter interception deep inside Cincinnati territory that prevented a potential scoring drive for the Cardinals.

The Bearcats held Louisville to 429 yards total offense and 21 points below the Cardinals season scoring average. Cincinnati also had their way on the ground against Louisville nationally-ranked defense, gaining 212 yards on 52 carries.

Gary Barnidge led Louisville with 5 receptions for 96 yards. Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas both caught five passes for the Cardinals.

Sophomore Brock Bolen led the Cardinals with six carries for 45 yards. Kolby Smith carried only three times for Louisville.

Louisville will travel north next Saturday to take on the much improved Syracuse Orangemen. Syracuse lost on the road at West Virginia Saturday afternoon, 41-17, after trailing by only three points at halftime.

GAME NOTES

  • U of L won its 15th straight game at home, the longest winning streak in school history and the second longest in the nation (behind USC). U of L is 19-1 in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium under head coach Bobby Petrino.

  • U of L improved to 6-0 for the first time since 1972, when the Cardinals finished with a 9-1 record and were the tri-champion of the Missouri Valley Conference.

  • Junior quarterback Brian Brohm made the start for the Cardinals after missing the last two games with a thumb injury. He completed 20-of-37 passes for 324 yards today, his seventh career 300-yard passing game (second-highest at U of L).

  • Brohm threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter to give him 29 for his career, which ties him with Dean May (1980-83) for eighth in career TD passes. His 305 yards passing today gave him 4,768 for his career, moving him past Browning Nagle (4,633 career passing yards, 1988-1990) for eighth all-time at U of L.

  • Junior placekicker Art Carmody booted field goals of 32 and 42 yards in the second quarter and added a 35-yarder in the fourth quarter to improve to 11-of-12 on field goals this season. It was Carmody's third career game with three field goals and his second this year (also vs. Middle Tennessee). He has connected on 25 of his last 26 attempts. Carmody is 8-for-8 from over 40 yards in his career.

  • Junior tight end Gary Barnidge produced a career-best with five catches for 96 yards today. He scored on a one-yard TD reception in the third quarter.

  • Freshman running back Anthony Allen made his first career start (17-yard TD run in the third quarter), while Breno Giacomini, who has been the starting tackle, was moved to tight end for this game due to an injury to tight end Scott Kuhn.

  • The Cardinals have turned the ball over at least twice in each of the last three games (7 turnovers in the last three games).

  • The sold-out crowd of 41,549 for today's game was the 11th largest in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium history. All three of the Cardinals' crowds this season have been among the top 11, including the stadium record 42,704 that witnessed U of L's victory over Miami (Fla.).

  • Louisville retained the Keg of Nails, the rivalry trophy for the victor. The Cardinals have won four straight against the Bearcats and eight of the last nine.

    Game notes provided by UofLSports.com


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