The Big East showdown lived up to its billing as both teams lit up the scoreboard and moved up and down the field all night. The Cardinals and Mountaineers combined for a Big East Conference record 1, 008 yards.
"What a great win," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "We had very good execution on offense and we wanted to be as aggressive as ever because we knew how explosive they were on offense. I thought our defense did a nice job in the first half and held on in the second half. Mario, Harry and Brian did a great job today of executing our offense."
While West Virginia stars Patrick White and Steve Slaton had their way with the Louisville defense most of the night, the Mountaineers couldn't overcome their three turnovers, two by Slaton. White passed for 222 yards and rushed for 125 and four touchdowns, while Slaton rushed for 156 yards and one touchdown.
"Against a team that's not as good, at their place, maybe you can overcome a couple of those critical errors," said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. "A team like Louisville at this place - it's hard to overcome that."
"(West Virginia) is very explosive," Petrino said. "They have two players that are as good as anybody in the country. That's why we had to stay aggressive on offense. We also put a lot of focus on the special teams and winning the kicking game, and that's what we did today."
Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm had the Louisville offense operating in high gear from the start. The 6'4 junior threw for 354 yards and one touchdown and helped the Cardinals break out of their recent offensive funk. And while the Cardinals struggled to score touchdowns inside the ‘red-zone' in the first half, kicker Art Carmody's three first half field goals helped Louisville take a 16-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"He was awesome," Petrino said of his junior quarterback. "To execute like that, with more than 350 yards, and with his focus on not only dropping back and passing but also with his checks and reads at the line, really says a lot about him."
Louisville gained the momentum and took control of the game early in the second half with touchdowns from its defense and special teams. Linebacker Malik Jackson returned a fumble 13 yards for a score to put Louisville ahead 23-14 2:52 into the third quarter, and Trent Guy returned a punt 40 yards for a touchdown less than three minutes later to put the Cards up, 30-16.
"The defensive touchdown and punt return touchdown were big for us," Petrino said.
return helped Louisville down
West Virginia, 44-34. (AP)
West Virginia cut the lead to 30-21 when White scored from five yard out late in the third quarter. But Louisville kept attacking offensively and when Brohm found Mario Urrutia on a 7-yard fade route in the corner of the endzone, the Cardinals went up 37-21.
White and the Mountaineers quickly answered, going 51 yards on just five plays to cut the margin to 37-27. West Virginia's touchdown was set up by a long kick return near midfield. But Louisville answered the call one more time on Anthony Allen's five yard touchdown run – his second touchdown of the game - with 10:19 left in the fourth quarter.
Ahead 44-27, Louisville then received some timely defensive stops and milked the clock offensively. West Virginia tacked on another score with 2:18 left for the final score. When the Cardinals sacked White on the games final play, Louisville fans stormed the field to celebrate their teams biggest win ever.
The Cardinals don't have much time to celebrate their big win. Louisville hits the road next week to face undefeated and No. 12-ranked Rutgers in another Thursday night showdown on ESPN.
"This is unbelievable," Louisville center Eric Wood said. "It's the best feeling ever, but we have to take this win and get ready for a big game against Rutgers next week."