Louisville got out to a comfortable lead but let Central Florida get back in the game during a disastrous second half, and the Cardinals could not stop the bleeding, losing 38-35. The Cardinals are now completely out of the national championship race, while UCF has taken the inside track for the American's automatic BCS bowl bid (Houston and USF are also unbeaten in conference.)
After both teams struggled to create separation during the first half, Louisville appeared to come out of the gates in the third quarter looking to make a statement and put the game away.
The Cardinals opened the second half with a nine-play, 75-yard drive, finished off by Dominique Brown's 20-yard touchdown run, giving them a 21-7 edge. UCF quickly went three-and-out on its next possession, and the Cardinals pushed their lead to 28-7 when Central Florida punter Caleb Houston couldn't handle the fourth-down snap. Louisville's James Quick made good on his surname by scooping up the football and running 30 yards to the end zone. From there, it seemed like Louisville was going to coast to an easy victory over the last moderately dangerous team on its schedule.
But Central Florida responded with a six-play, 74-yard touchdown drive to get back to within two scores. The Knights got the ball right back two plays later when Miles Pace popped the ball out of Senorise Perry's hands and Sean Maag fell on the ball at Louisville's 15 yard line. One false start penalty later, Storm Johnson caught a quick pass from Blake Bortles and proceeded to reverse the field and make several Louisville defenders miss on his way to the end zone.
Louisville's next drive covered just two yards on five plays and UCF quickly marched down the field on a three-play, 56-yard drive highlighted by 42 rushing yards from William Stanback, including a 12-yard touchdown plunge that brought the game to a 28-28 tie. UCF took the lead on Shawn Moffitt's 34-yard field goal following another quick and fruitless Cardinals possession.
Louisville's offense finally awoke from its second half slumber and went on a nine-play, 88-yard touchdown drive that included a pass interference penalty that kept the drive alive on an otherwise failed fourth down conversion at midfield. But UCF went right back down the field and Blake Bortles delivered the dagger on a two-yard touchdown strike to Jeff Godfrey.
Louisville got the ball back with 23 seconds remaining and got within hail mary range, but Teddy Bridgewater's pass hit the turf in the back of the end zone.
Box Score Hero:
Storm Johnson was productive both as a runner and a pass catcher, totaling 188 yards and two touchdowns on 22 touches.
Bridgewater had another strong performance, completing 29 of 38 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort.
Louisville entered the game ranked sixth in the Coaches' Poll and eighth in the AP Poll. With its weak AAC schedule, many voters have been eagerly awaiting a reason to discount the Cardinals. For that reason, a fall to somewhere around 20th would not surprise.
Central Florida was not ranked but was among the "others receiving votes" in both polls. The Knights should be ranked in the low 20s after this performance.
But Did They Cover?
Louisville opened as a 17.5-point favorite but the spread narrowed by three to 14.
For More On This Game:
For more on Cardinals football, visit Louisville community Card Chronicle.
Next Week's Schedule:
Louisville: 10/26, at USF
UCF: 10/26, vs. UConn