Louisville didn't walk away before earning some respect, but it was the No. 3 Hurricanes (5-0) who exited with their title hopes intact after rallying for a 41-38 victory over the No. 17 Cardinals (5-1) in front of 63,715 fans.
After rallying from a 24-7 deficit by scoring on each of their six second half drives, including a go-ahead 78-yard punt return courtesy of Devin Hester with 8:11 remaining in the game, the Hurricanes secured the victory after Antrel Rolle intercepted a Brian Brohm Hail-Mary attempt with the clock elapsing.
"We just have a bunch of guys on this football team that kept fighting in the trenches and refused to fold under pressure. I just can't say enough about every single guy on this team," said Miami senior quarterback Brock Berlin, who completed 25-of-37 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns in helping erase a 10-point fourth quarter deficit.
"We went in at the half and talked about just coming out and making plays. It says a great deal about the character of these guys."
And the Hurricanes certainly needed all of it.
Down 38-34 with 4:17 remaining in the game the Hurricanes offense took over at the 44-yard-line. Berlin completed three of his next four passes, including a 26-yard strike to Lance Leggett, to set UM up at the 14. Four plays later, Berlin hit Darnell Jenkins with a three-yard TD to put Miami ahead 41-38.
It was the high-powered Cardinals behind Brohm (7-of-12, 51 yards) and starting quarterback Stefan LeFors (17-of-22, 242 passing yards, three touchdowns) who kept the Hurricanes off balance with an assortment of pass formations and a productive running game. After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter Louisville responded with 24 unanswered points against a UM defense that was allowing 6.4 points a game coming in.
The Hurricanes defense, which entered the game having allowed just one touchdown in 60 possessions all season, appeared to the have LeFors and friends under control from the outset in not allowing a first down and forcing consecutive punts to the start the game.
But the Cardinals tied the game on a Lionel Gates 1-yard touchdown run with 1:52 left in the first quarter. LeFors, who was 5-for-5 for 18 yards on Cardinals initial scoring drive, found Tiger Jones from 12 yards out to extend Louisville's lead to 17-7 at the 10:03 mark of the second quarter. Gates would score again inside of two minutes in the second quarter as he tight-roped the right sidelines before heading for the endzone to put Louisville up 24-7.
"We really had some poor tackling and have up too many easy pass plays in the first half," said UM coach Larry Coker. "But I'm really proud of the way our defense battled back and just kept the pressure on them the rest of the way. If you're going to be a great football team you need to win these type of games and we certainly did that tonight."
The Hurricanes took the opening possession of the third quarter and put together a 10-play, 76-yard drive that Berlin finished with a 14-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-14 at the 9:51 mark. Not to be outdone the Cardinals answered as LeFors hit J. R. Russell for a 22-yard touchdown to give Louisville a 31-14 edge. Miami scored on their next two possessions to come within a touchdown before a Jon Peattie 32-yard field goal made it 31-27.
After being stopped on downs on their first offensive possession the Hurricanes responded with a seven-play, 47-yard drive that concluded in the endzone with Berlin finding redshirt freshman Greg Olsen for a nine-yard touchdown pass, giving UM a 7-0 lead with 5:22 remaining in the first quarter.
The Hurricanes moved to the Louisville nine-yard line on the strength of a Kevin Everett 14-yard reception and Gore nine-yard run before the game's first score.
"It was a great football. Our players did a great job performing and our coaches did a great job preparing our guys," said Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. "We threw everything we had at them. They are a great program and have come back like that before against other teams. We have nothing to be ashamed of."
Up next: Miami travels to NC State, Oct. 23.
UM Survives 41-38
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