The Cardinals, depleted by suspensions and injuries, were upended by Utah 44-35 before 40,894 fans, and a national television audience on ESPN's Friday night telecast, at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. UofL was without four key skill position players - JaJuan Spillman, George Stripling, Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas- as it lost its second straight home game.
Spillman, a wide receiver/kick returner, and Stripling, a speedy running back, were both expected to miss the game due to suspensions announced earlier in the week, but Urrutia and Douglas – UofL's top two receivers - were somewhat unexpected casualties because of injuries. Urrutia wasn't even in uniform while Douglas was, but he never made it onto the field.
"No excuses," UofL coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "We have no excuses, we're never going to make excuses around this place. We play the guys who are available."
"We were hopeful both (Urrutia and Douglas) of them would play, though we knew Mario was more of a long shot. Harry warmed up, but he said he couldn't go."
Friday night. (Troy Turbeville)
Utah's spread offense spread the wealth around, compiling 322 yards through the air and 260 on the ground. Quarterback Brian Johnson, who missed two games earlier this season with a separated shoulder, passed for 312 yards and one TD and ran for 37 yards and another score.
Meanwhile junior running back Darrell Mack rushed for 163 yards and three TDs. Louisville (3-3), No. 2 nationally in total offense, had 493 yards of offense, but only 26 on the ground. Senior quarterback Brian Brohm passed for 467 yards and four TDs against the ninth-ranked pass defense in the country. The fill-ins for Douglas and Urrutia didn't do too bad.
"We just have to get better as a team," a dejected Brohm said afterward.
It couldn't have started off any worse for the Cards. In fact the loudest Louisville ovation of the first half may have come when the UofL baseball team was introduced between quarters.
The Utes (3-3) scored on their second and third possessions of the game to build a 14-0 lead. Utah began the first of those drives on its own 3-yard line, then was pushed back to the 2 after a false start penalty but needed only nine plays to take a 7-0 lead on Johnson's 7-yard TD toss to Bradon Godfrey.
The Utes got much better field position the next time around, starting at the Louisville 47 after a 4-yard punt by Cory Goettsche. Seven plays and 47 yards later Utah led 14-0 thanks to Darrell Mack's 3-yard TD run.
The Utes increased their lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter thanks again to good field position. Utah started from its own 47, after the Utes stopped UofL deep in its own territory, and needed only five plays to score - a 16-yard run by Corbin Louks.
Louisville responded with a seven-play, 69-yard drive, capped by Brohm's 11-yard TD pass to Guy, to pull within 21-7.
Utah added another score - a 2-yard run by Mack late in the first half after converting a fake field goal.
The Utes dominated the first half, rolling up 337 yards of offense to UofL's 99 (including 7 rushing) and 18 first downs to UofL's four.
The second half started with signs of promise for the Cards. UofL held the Utes on their first possession, then embarked on an 80-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a Brohm to Carter 3-yard TD toss.
The Cards then clawed to within 27-21 on Brock Bolen's 4-yard TD run, capping another 80-yard drive, with 5:06 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Utes answered with 14 straight points - a 25-yard run by Johnson and a 3-yard run by Mack to push their lead back to 20 (41-21).
Brohm rallied the Cards for two late TDs, a 30-yard score to Barnidge and a 29-yard TD to Guy, to pull within 41-35 with 3:33 to play.
UofL then tried, and failed, an onside kick. Johnson converted on a key run for a first down to set up Sakoda's field goal.
"Obviously we can't give up 582 yards and expect to win and we have to get off the field on third down. We didn't play well in any phase tonight, including our offense, which played terrible," Kragthorpe said.
Louisville returns to Big East action when the Cards travel to Cincinnati next Saturday.