Cards comeback; pound MTSU, 42-23

Louisville (4-2, 0-1) overcame a 14-0 first quarter deficit Saturday afternoon at PJCS against Middle Tennessee in a 42-23 homecoming win over the Blue Raiders. Victor Anderson rushed for 162 yards and Brock Bolen scored three touchdowns to pace the Cards.

'Tis the season for a scare.

And the University of Louisville got one again from Middle Tennessee as the Blue Raiders bolted to a 14-0 lead Saturday, less than two weeks before Halloween.

But just like last year Middle Tennessee couldn't pull off the trick of upsetting the Cardinals. Instead, it was UofL who treated its fans to a 42-23 homecoming win on a cool, blustery day at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

"Down 14-0 we found a way to rally the troops and get it done," UofL coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "At no point and time were we in a panic situation...we knew coming in we had to stay patient with the running game...we knew we'd break some runs eventually"

Brock Bolen scored a career-high three touchdowns, Victor Anderson rushed for 161 yards and one score, UofL's special teams added another TD and Hunter Cantwell came back from two early interceptions to toss a late touchdown for the Cards.

Trailing 17-14 at halftime the Cards (4-2) scored the first 28 points of the second half - as their defense held MTSU to two yards of total offense before the Blue Raiders' final drive - on their way to their second straight victory of the season.

"No panic at all," said Anderson, who keyed the comeback with an 88-yard TD run in the second quarter. "Things happen in a football game, we just game together as a team."

But just like last year, when MTSU gave UofL fits in a 58-42 loss, it wasn't easy against the Blue Raiders (2-5).

UofL spotted Middle Tennessee a 14-0 lead thanks to two Cantwell interceptions on UofL's first two possession.

After a MTSU punt pinned Louisville deep in its own territory on its first possession, Cantwell was picked off on third-and-7 from the 4. MTSU free safety Jeremy Kellem intercepted Cantwell's pass intended for Anderson at the 14 and returned it for a touchdown.

Brock Bolen rushed for three TD's
against MTSU.

On UofL's second possession, facing second-and-10 at the MTSU 48 Cantwell, under heavy pressure, was intercepted by linebacker Ivon Hickman. Hickman returned the ball to the UofL 39.

When Cantwell returned to the sidelines he had a brief conversation with his coach.

"I don't know if I could say that here," Kragthorpe replied afterward when asked what he said to his quarterback then. "I jumped him a little bit. I told him to get rid of the ball, throw it into the stands if he had to because we've got a lot of fans who'll catch it."

The Blue Raiders needed only one play - a trick one - to take a 14-0 lead. On first down 'B' receiver Patrick Honeycutt took the pitch from quarterback Joe Craddock, rolled out to his right and lofted a pass to a wide-open Phillip Tanner.

There was no one within 10 yards of Tanner, who easily jogged into the end zone for a two-TD lead.

But the Cards came back. After five straight Anderson rushes Cantwell connected with Trent Guy for 27 yards on a third-and- long from the MTSU 39. Three plays later Bolen ran it in from three yards out for the TD. Ryan Payne's PAT made it 14-7.

"The guys never lost faith in me on the sidelines, they were keeping my spirits good," said Cantwell, who finished the game 14 for 23 for 144 yards.

UofL tied the score on its next possession when Anderson broke free for the 88-yard TD. On the play Anderson got a block from fullback Joe Tronzo, busted up the middle, then cut to his left as two would-be MTSU tacklers knocked each other to the ground.

"I cut back and saw nothing but green grass in front of me," Anderson said. "For a second I had to get my lungs right because I knew this was going to be a long ride."

The Blue Raiders, who kept UofL off-balance in the first half with their two-quarterback attack of Craddock and Dwight Dasher, added a 42-yard field goal by Alan Gendreau 2:11 before halftime to take a 17-14 lead into the locker room.

However, the second half was all UofL.

The Cards got the ball to start the third quarter, but their first drive ended at the MTSU 9 when Bolen was stopped on fourth-and-1. He made up for it later, though.

UofL had a short field on its second possession - buoyed by a 23-yard punt return by Doug Beaumont - starting from the MTSU 31.

Cantwell connected with Scott Long for 15 yards on first down, then the running backs did the rest. Bolen capped off the four- play drive with a 1-yard TD dive. The third quarter ended with UofL facing another short field.

The Cards took over at the MTSU 41 and needed just six plays to score. Bolen's third TD of the game, this one again from 1 yard, gave UofL a 28-17 lead.

For the second week in a row the Cards got a big boost from their special teams. Early in the fourth quarter senior linebacker James Bryant blocked a MTSU punt and Johnny (On the Spot) Patrick recovered it in the end zone as UofL increased its lead to 35-17.

Cantwell's 1-yard TD pass to Johnnie Burns with 2:30 to play was the icing on the cake for the Cards.

MTSU's first five possessions of the second half were three-and -outs. The Blue Raiders totaled only 93 yards of total offense in the second half, and 91 of those came on their final drive, which ended with a 16-yard TD pass from Craddock to Malcolm Beyah.

"We came out with a chip on our shoulder because they did put up 555 yards of offense on us last year," said defensive tackle Earl Heyman, who totaled three tackles, including one sack.

Louisville returns to Big East Conference action at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday when it hosts 19th-ranked South Florida.

"Now we play for the crown, it's all Big East from here," Kragthorpe said.

NOTABLE Senior defensive tackle Adrian Grady dressed, but did not play against Middle Tennessee. Grady, who entered the game with 16 tackles including 2.5 sacks, was held out because he did not meet academic obligations that Kragthorpe and defensive coordinator Ron English had set for him.

"He has to get it done off the field in the classroom too," Kragthorpe said. "That's the way it's going to be, guys have to learn that."

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