Teddy Bridgewater has looked less-than-sharp in what is likely his final regular season game as an amateur, but his team has still managed to keep a three-point advantage heading into the locker room. The Cardinals' junior signal-caller is 6-of-14 through the air with just 81 passing yards, and the Louisville offense as a whole gained a meager 150 yards in the first half. But the Cardinals' offense has been bailed out by another strong showing from its defense, which has held Cincinnati to 183 total yards while forcing a pair of Brendan Kay interceptions.
Louisville got off to a quick start in its opening drive, needing just four plays to draw first blood in the final battle for the Keg of Nails. Teddy Bridgewater hit DeVante Parker on a 5-yard hitch route that Parker took another 31 yards into the end zone without so much as an attempted tackle by a Bearcat defender. From there, Louisville's offense sputtered a bit until Michael Harris' 27-yard punt return gave Louisville excellent field position at its own 45-yard line. The Cardinals got within five yards of the end zone, but Cincinnati linebacker Nick Temple sacked Bridgewater on third down, forcing Louisville to settle for a field goal.
Despite being shut out until the final two minutes of the first half, Cincinnati picked up seven first downs in the first quarter and moved the ball reasonably well early. But shaky quarterback play from Brendan Kay ended both of the Bearcats' drives in the opening frame, resulting in Brendan Kay interceptions. Their third drive nearly ended in similar fashion when a pair of Louisville defensive backs batted around another errant pass from Kay but couldn't quite pull it in. Instead, an offensive pass interference call on Tion Green pushed the Bearcats out of field goal range and forced Cincinnati to punt.
On their final possession of the half, the Bearcats relied more heavily on the run and, as a result, were finally able to sustain a long drive without turning the ball over. After Tion Green's 19-yard run put Cincinnati at the 1-yard line, Brendan Kay finished off the drive with a quarterback sneak. Though the play cut the Cardinals' lead to three, it may have cost the Bearcats the health of their quarterback, who appeared to be in pain when he held the snap on the PAT and was subsequently seen heading into the locker room.
Senior backup Jordan Luallen came on in relief of Kay on the Bearcats' 16-second drive after DeVante Parker fell down and caused Teddy Bridgewater to throw this interception in the final moments of the first half.