Art Carmody's 33-yard field goal with 20 seconds to play capped the Cardinals' rally from an 18-point second-half deficit and lifted Louisville to a 41-38 win over Rutgers in front of 39,612 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
It was a season-salvaging victory for a UofL team that began the season ranked in the Top 10 nationally, then seemed to lose some of its fan base as it lost games, and last week speculation swirled that it might lose its coach too. But the Cards capped their season with an improbable come-from-behind win that saw some of their fans rush to the exits after they fell behind 35-17 in the third quarter, then saw many of the remaining fans rush the field afterward.
"I think it summed up the year in that this team wasn't going to quit," senior quarterback Brian Brohm said. "This team, we never gave up."
UofL (6-6, 3-4) isn't ready to give up on its chances of playing in a bowl game either. There is still a slim chance that the Cards could be playing in the postseason when bowl game pairings are announced Sunday.
"Hopefully we're going to get to play one more game, but on the outside chance that we don't hopefully this is a springboard to next season," UofL coach Steve Kragthorpe said.
It may, or may not, be the end of the season, but it was definitely the end of an era. Brohm passed for 237 yards and one touchdown and rushed for another TD in his final home game.
"It's the way we wanted it to end," Brohm said.
"It was an awesome way to come back, especially for the seniors, we couldn't have asked for a better ending," added Carmody, a senior, who also became the NCAA's all-time career points leader in the game.
It was an eerily similar ending to last year's game when Rutgers ruined UofL's national championship hopes with a 28-25 come-from-behind victory buoyed by its ground game.
comeback win over Rutgers Thursday
This season it was the Scarlet Knights (7-5, 3-4) who built a big lead, then it was the Cards' ground attack which brought them back. Brock Bolen rushed for 117 yards and two TDs and freshman Bilal Powell rushed for 91 yards and one TD as UofL out-gained Rutgers on the ground 240 yards to 153.
"We were running the ball really well, it was great to see," said Brohm, whose team amassed 477 yards of total offense against Rutgers, which came in ranked eighth nationally in total defense.
Much of what could be seen at the beginning of the game was black. The game was billed as a "blackout" – an urging for UofL fans to wear black – and early on it looked like one that Cardinal faithful might want to block out of their memory forever. Rutgers led 21-3 after the first quarter and 28-17 at halftime.
"I give credit to them, they got us blocked and they moved the ball hard," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "Had it not been a tale of two halves, it would have been different. It was a very different feeling in the first half as opposed to the second half."
The Scarlet Knights scored on their first possession, taking advantage of UofL's 88th-ranked pass defense, scoring on Mike Teel's 35-yard pass to Kenny Britt, who ironically wears No. 88.
Carmody answered with a 41-yard field goal, set up by a 55-yard run by Bolen, to make it 7-3 and in the process he became the NCAA's all-time leading scorer.
Rutgers used some trickery to set up its second score when Teel threw a lateral to right tackle Jeremy Zuttah on first-and-10 from the Louisville 23. Zuttah, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior, gained 13 yards on the carry, which finished with his hurdling a UofL cornerback Rod Council. Ray Rice scored one play later from 10 yards out. Rice, who like Brohm was a preseason Heisman Trophy hopeful, rushed for 120 yards and three TDs, but he rushed for only 37 yards in the second half.
The Scarlet Knights increased their lead to 21-3 after Rice's 14-yard TD run on their third possession thanks to three UofL penalties on the drive, including two pass interference flags.
Brohm used his arm and his legs to pull UofL within 21-10 early in the second quarter. First, facing third-and-4 from the Rutgers 47, he rushed nine yards for a first down. Then on the next play he threw a 30-yard pass to Gary Barnidge to set up his 6-yard rushing TD two plays later. Rice's third TD of the first half, this one from six yards, pushed Rutgers' lead to 28-10.
But UofL got some new life, and some momentum too, just 11 seconds before the half when Brohm's pass to Patrick Carter on a crossing patterns went for a 52-yard TD and pulled the Cards within 28-17 at intermission.
At halftime some UofL fans left, and after Brohm's fumble on UofL's first drive of the second half it appeared that any hope of a Cardinals' comeback went out the door too. Then, more followed when Teel connected with Britt for a 39-yard TD on fourth-and-6 to give Rutgers a 35-17 lead.
But that's when the Cards' comeback began. Bolen and Powell sandwiched TD runs around a field goal by Jeremy Ito before Bolen's TD run with 8:37 to play tied the game at 38-all.
That set up the dramatic ending. Brohm's 46-yard completion to Harry Douglas – Douglas' only catch of the game – got UofL deep in Rutgers territory. Then it was all on Carmody's foot.
"I knew that was in as soon as we got down in field goal range," Brohm said.
"The only time I kicked a game-winner was in practice by myself," Carmody said. "So to do it on senior night, in front of the home crowd, was something I'll never forget."