Despite a 35-minute scoring drought and a series of second-half miscues, the Louisville Cardinals grinded out a 24-10 victory over Rutgers Thursday night. The victory takes Louisville (6-0, 2-0) to the top of the American Athletic Conference standings, while Rutgers (4-2, 1-1) suffered its first loss in the new conference.
Louisville jumped to a 17-0 first half lead on a John Wallace chip-shot field goal and two second-quarter touchdowns, and looked to be in control of the game. Rutgers answered the second Louisville touchdown with an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown drive of its own, highlighted by a fake field goal attempt that set up first-and-goal at the Louisville goal line. The Cardinals held a narrow 17-7 advantage at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter in which Rutgers blocked a Louisville field goal attempt and recovered a fumble by Cardinals running back Senorise Perry, Scarlet Knights' placekicker Kyle Federico connected on a 36-yard field goal to make it a one-possession game.
And then, both teams lost their minds. After leading his team to the Rutgers 5 yard line, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater fumbled during a sack. Scarlet Knighs defensive end David Milewski dove on the fumble, but the Cardinals had the ball back just three plays later when Gary Nova threw an interception to Calvin Pryor.
Louisville again drove into Rutgers territory, but a 45-yard field goal attempt missed and Rutgers again had an opportunity to tie the game. Nova promptly threw yet another interception, his fourth of the evening, and Louisville did not let this opportunity go. Perry broke a run to the Rutgers 10 yard line, and Bridgewater hit Eli Rogers on a five-yard touchdown pass to cement the victory.
Box Score Hero: On a night where Bridgewater, a potential Heisman Trophy contender, put up gaudy stats but committed two critical turnovers, our box score hero is the Louisville defense. The Cardinals held Rutgers to just 240 total yards, including a miniscule 12 rushing yards on 27 carries. Rutgers managed just two drives of 50+ yards, with one of those coming when the game was out of reach. Louisville's defense also recorded eight sacks and forced four Gary Nova interceptions.
Rankings Ramifications: Louisville needed an impressive showing in one of its few nationally televised games against a legitimate opponent if it wanted to help its case for a BCS National Championship berth. The lackluster and error-filled performance did little to improve the Cardinals' standing. Rutgers was, and will remain, unranked.
But Did They Cover? Louisville entered the night as a 19-point favorite.
Next Week's Schedule: Louisville hosts Central Florida next Friday. Rutgers has next week off before a visit from the Houston Cougars on October 26.