(Photo: Jamie Rhodes, US PRESSWIRE)
Louisville improved to 8-0 and snapped a four-game losing streak vs. Cincinnati
Cardinals cornerback Terrell Floyd picked off a pass on Cincinnati’s first drive of overtime
John Wallace kicked the game-winning field goal
1:53AM EDT October 27. 2012 – LOUISVILLE – The Louisville Cardinals reclaimed the Keg of Nails without putting the hammer down.
They won without demonstrating their dominance, without overpowering their opposition from the University of Cincinnati, without an unambiguous answer to how they have managed to remain undefeated.
But not, yet again, without proving their worth.
BOX SCORE: Louisville 34, Cincinnati 31 (OT)
“We talk about tenacity, about finishing, and about resiliency,” Louisville head coach Charlie Strong said following Friday’s 34-31 victory over the visiting Bearcats. “And that’s what you look at with this football team. . .We have yet to put together a 60-minute game. But this team continues to find a way.”
Trailing by as many as 10 points, forced into overtime by a desperate game-tying drive in the final minutes, confounded by a curious injustice in the football rulebook, Team Tightrope nonetheless persevered, performed and prevailed.
Indisputably imperfect, yet remarkably resilient, the No. 14 Cardinals won their fifth one-possession game of a serendipitous season. This time, their escape act was made possible by a freeze-the-kicker timeout Cincinnati coach Butch Jones called just prior to a Grant Donovan snap that sailed over holder Will Stein’s head on a potential game-winning field goal.
Thus reprieved, John Wallace converted a 30-yard kick to seal the soggy Big East Conference showdown and hold Louisville’s place vis-à-vis the BCS post-season picture. The victory reduced the number of teams still unbeaten in Big East play to two and further raised the stakes of the Nov. 29 matchup between Louisville and Rutgers.
For the moment, though, the Cardinals should be counting their blessings instead of counting down to their regular season finale. They should count themselves fortunate that they could yield 196 yards rushing and a game-tying 53-second touchdown drive with less than two minutes remaining in regulation and yet somehow emerge victorious.
“This win shows how much our team has matured from last year,” receiver Damian Copeland said. “We knew this was going to be a big week and a big game and we got it done.”
Louisville’s success, again, hinged on the considerable skills of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (24-of-41, 416 yards, two touchdowns) and his latest go-to guy, DeVante Parker. Parker’s juggling 30-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter required an official review before it could be ratified, but his subsequent 64-yard cross-country touchdown run rated extensive replays because of the moves he made and the amount of ground he covered.
“DeVante is a special kid,” Bridgewater said. “He always steps up when his number gets called. We have to get him his touches each and every game because he has that big-play ability.”
For most teams that approach Halloween still undefeated, Parker’s second score, a go-ahead touchdown with 1:56 left on the clock, might have been sufficient to send the fans home happy. But nothing comes easily for these Cardinals, and Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux shredded Louisville’s defense with another rapid-fire touchdown less than one minute later.
It was that kind of night. Until Wallace’s winning kick, Louisville’s celebrations were consistently brief and sometimes premature. And those in search of bad omens did not have to look very hard to find one.
With Cincinnati leading, 10-7, early in the second quarter, Cincinnati’s Anthony McClung muffed a punt, kicked it into his own end zone, and was tackled on top of it only to be rewarded with a touchback instead of being penalized with a two-point safety.
The rules interpretation was plainly right – you can’t fumble a ball that you never really possess — but the result was patently ridiculous, with the Bearcats improving their field position through their own sequential clumsiness.
It appeared for a while as if the Keg of Nails trophy might remain in Cincinnati because football’s rules makers have some screws loose. But in the end, the home team was carrying the keg and a still unblemished record.
These Cardinals don’t do dominance, but they sure do drama.