Teddy Bridgewater and No. 16 Louisville trailed by 10 on two different occasions and rallied each time. The undefeated Cardinals kept their cool, even when a botched snap almost cost them the game.
John Wallace kicked a 30-yard field goal in overtime to lift Louisville to a 34-31 victory over the Bearcats after an attempt to ice the redshirt freshman went horribly wrong for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati got the ball first in OT but Terrell Floyd intercepted Munchie Legaux’s floater in the end zone and the Cardinals drove 12 yards to set up Wallace’s kick.
Bearcats coach Butch Jones called timeout right before the field-goal attempt, and the high snap went through the holder’s hands. Jones just shrugged and Wallace drilled the ball through the uprights to give Louisville the win.
"I was calm and cool," said Wallace, who was carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders. "I had a lot of confidence."
Bridgewater connected with DeVante Parker for two terrific touchdowns after the Cardinals (8-0, 3-0 Big East) fell behind 24-14 with 10:26 left in the third quarter.
Parker’s tying 30-yard grab in the fourth was initially ruled incomplete. He juggled the ball near the back of the end zone but brought it in with one foot inbounds, and it was changed to a touchdown after a replay review.
"That was a big-time, big-time play right there," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said.
Parker gave the Cardinals the lead with a 64-yard catch-and-run with 1:56 remaining, but the Bearcats (5-2, 1-1) tied it at 31 on Legaux’s 26-yard pass to Damon Julian with just over a minute left.
Louisville stopped a four-game slide in the series against Cincinnati and captured the Keg of Nails trophy that goes to the winner of the rivalry.
The duel between Bridgewater and Legaux took on some added significance this week when the Cincy quarterback declared he was better than his Cardinals counterpart.
That certainly wasn’t the case on this night.
Bridgewater overcame a slow start and completed 24-of-41 passes for 416 yards and the pair of TD strikes to Parker, who had four catches for 120 yards. Legaux ran for a score but tossed three interceptions, including the costly mistake in overtime.
"We never got down," said Legaux, who was 13 for 28 for 157 yards. "I wanted to execute and make a play. The cornerback did a great job of breaking on the ball. That’s one of the plays you wish you could have back."
George Winn rushed for 125 yards on 26 carries for the Bearcats, who led by 10 points twice but dropped their second consecutive game after a 5-0 start. Ralph David Abernathy had touchdown runs of 14 and 4 yards.
Louisville grabbed a 7-3 lead on Jeremy Wright’s 1-yard plunge but Cincinnati bounced back with Abernathy’s first scoring run and Legaux’s TD to build a 17-7 advantage with 8:05 left in the first half.
The Cardinals responded with their best drive of the night, marching 80 yards down the field. Senorise Perry’s 8-yard touchdown run trimmed Cincinnati’s lead to 17-14 at the break.
It was a rough half for both quarterbacks. Bridgewater was just 9 of 22 for 154 yards and his fourth interception of the season, while Legaux was 4 of 15 for 54 with two interceptions.
Cincinnati began the second half with another impressive drive, going 73 yards in 10 plays for another 10-point cushion on Abernathy’s 4-yard TD run.
Cardinals defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin, who had two sacks in last week’s victory against South Florida, left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury.