Cards fall to West Virginia

University of Louisville senior center Eric Wood made one final post-game lap around Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Wood and his 21 other classmates wanted to go out with a bang in their final home game.

Instead they went out with a thud, or more accurately, a dud of a second half.

West Virginia outscored the Cardinals 28-14 after intermission - including 21-7 in the third quarter - to send the seniors out on a sour note, 35-21, Saturday in front of 34,796 fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

"It was tough walking off the field knowing my last game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium was an L," Wood said. "It's a shame it ended like this."

It could get worse.

The Cards (5-6, 1-5 in the Big East), who have now lost four straight games for the first time since since 1997 (Ron Cooper's final year), close their season Dec. 4 at Rutgers with slim bowl game hopes.

"We've got to bridge the gap and the bottom line is that we've got to get to six wins," UofL coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "If we get to six wins, we're in (a bowl game)."

"I'm not 100 percent familiar with bowl committees and how they select their teams, but I know if we win at Rutgers we'll be bowl eligible," added senior quarterback Hunter Cantwell, who was 27 for 47 for 276 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. "We have to beat Rutgers and let the chips fall where they may."

UofL fell to the Mountaineers for the third time in four years thanks in large part to five turnovers, including four in the second half, a time that has become especially troublesome for the Cards. In its current losing streak UofL has been outscored 80-38 after halftime.

"We're close, but close don't count, we've got to find a way to win," said Kragthorpe, whose two-year record at UofL dropped to 11-12. "Close doesn't count, only in horseshoes, drive-in movies and hand grenades, that's where it counts."

The Cards rarely came close to stopping West Virginia quarterback Pat White, who rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 122 yards and two more scores as he continued to write his name in the Big East record book.

"Pat's a phenomenal player, we had him dead-to-right a couple of times and he gets away," Kragthorpe said. "We knew coming into the game we had to stop Pat, but we didn't do that."

The Cards showed plenty of spark early.

On the third play of the game Victor Anderson broke off a 40-yard run to put UofL at the West Virginia 18. The Cards couldn't convert that into points, though, as the drive stalled and Ryan Payne missed a 30-yard field goal.

UofL bounced back on its third possession, though. Taking over at their own 3 the Cards embarked on their longest drive of the season, going 97 yards in nine plays and taking a 7-0 lead thanks to Bilal Powell's 1-yard TD dive with 1:53 to play in the first quarter.

Powell rushed six times for 36 yards on the drive and Cantwell connected up with Doug Beaumont on a 47-yard pass play to set up the score.

Louisville's lead was short-lived, however. On the fourth play of the Mountaineers' ensuing possession White sprinted 66 yards around the right end for the tying touchdown with nine seconds to play in the period.

The Cards seemed to regain the momentum at the end of the first half when they stopped West Virginia on fourth-and- goal at the Louisville 1.

The third quarter was almost all West Virginia.

The Mountaineers (7-3, 4-1) marched downfield with the opening kickoff of the second half thanks to White and Noel Devine. Devine ran twice for 27 yards, while White ran twice for 12 yards, then tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Dorrell Jalloh.

Louisville looked to answer, but on its third play Cantwell connected with Chris Vaughn for a first down, but Vaughn fumbled the ball away to West Virginia. Two plays later White went for another long TD-run, this one 43 yards.

"I think everyone in the country knows Pat White is a dynamic player," UofL senior nose tackle Earl Heyman said. "They executed their game plan pretty well with their second half adjustments."

Louisville responded with a 13-play, 67-yard scoring drive - which was capped by Brock Bolen's 5-yard TD run - to close within 21-14. The Cards' defense then held the Mountaineers to three-and-out, but on the third play of UofL's next possession Cantwell's pass was tipped twice and intercepted by WVU linebacker Anthony Leonard. Leonard returned the ball to the UofL 7 and on the Mountaineers' first play White scampered in for the TD.

White added a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jock Sanders with 8:51 to play, which began the mass exodus to the exits for UofL fans.

The Cards added a late TD - on a 17-yard pass from Cantwell to Josh Chichester - but the outcome was already decided by then.

"Our guys are playing hard and I'm sick we're not winning," Kragthorpe said. "I hate it for our guys in the locker room because they're working their tails off everyday in practice. I thought we played hard in the game today, but it's very frustrating."

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