No. 19 Louisville holds off Houston, 20-13

With each carry, Dominique Brown showed a hard-charging
aggression that defenders were powerless to stop.

Most important was that he showed that talent and durability
when Louisville needed them most.

Brown ran for a career-high 137 yards and two touchdowns,
including the go-ahead score in the third quarter, and No. 19
Louisville held on to beat Houston 20-13 on Saturday night.

Listless on both sides of the ball and trailing 13-10 at
halftime, Louisville turned to Brown, who carried 11 times in the
third quarter for 50 yards and a 3-yard touchdown. He finished with
27 carries.

”My hat’s off to the offensive line,” Brown said. ”The tight
ends and receivers did a great job of springing me for the long
runs.

”When a running back gets the momentum, you got to keep running
him.”

Louisville’s defense meanwhile awakened to hold the Cougars
(7-3, 4-2 American Athletic Conference) to 41 second-half yards and
help the Cardinals (9-1, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) win
their third straight game and stay within reach of first-place
Central Florida.

Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater completed 19-of-29 passes for 209
yards but had his streak of 21 games with a touchdown pass end at
21. DeVante Parker had four receptions for 72 yards, including a
39-yarder that set up Brown’s second TD run.

John Wallace kicked field goals of 37 and 39 yards for the
Cardinals, who outgained the Cougars 332-195 and just 15 on the
ground.

”At halftime we made an adjustment to stop the run,”
linebacker James Burgess said. ”There wasn’t much they could do
once we stopped the run.”

Brown had been building toward his career game in recent weeks,
posting his first 100-yard game at South Florida last month to
become the primary back that Louisville has sought all season after
using a rotation that included Senorise Perry and former Auburn
star Michael Dyer.

Against Houston, Brown started both halves with game-changing
plays.

After capping Louisville’s first drive with a 13-yard touchdown
run, the junior provided a 17-13 lead with his second TD run on the
opening possession of the second half, just the spark that the
Cardinals needed following a lethargic second quarter. Louisville
held the ball for 12:24 in the period, and Houston never
recovered.

”If we’re going to hold an opponent to 20 points, we feel like
we’re in a good chance to win the football game with what we do
offensively,” Houston coach Tony Levine said. ”I felt like we had
opportunities, we had possessions offensively to get that done, and
we just didn’t.”

Brown’s second TD led to frustration for Houston safety Adrian
McDonald, who was ejected for punching Louisville offensive lineman
Kamran Joyer several times on the play.

The game marked Louisville’s first Saturday night contest in
five years and its first meeting against Houston since a 65-27
victory in 2004 – their second straight 60-point performance
against the Cougars.

Houston looked poised to jump on the Cardinals right away when
Demarcus Ayers returned the opening kickoff 61 yards with the help
of five missed tackles, and the Cougars moved 11 yards for a first
down at the Louisville 28. After three straight incompletions, they
gambled on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal into the
wind, but John O’Korn’s slant pass to Xavier Maxwell came up 5
yards short.

Brown’s running quickly got the Cardinals on the board, carrying
seven times for 44 yards, including the touchdown run off left
tackle. Wallace’s first field goal two drives later put Louisville
up 10-0.

Houston needed just two drives to tie the game, driving 48 yards
for Kyle Bullard’s 46-yard field goal and 60 yards ending in
Kenneth Farrow’s 4-yard run with 6:35 left before halftime. Those
drives were telling as the Cougars’ no-huddle offense seemed to
confuse the Cardinals’ defense, which struggled to keep up.

Defensively, Houston succeeded in pressuring Bridgewater,
sacking him twice and keeping him on the run at other times.

Two key plays helped the Cougars take a 13-10 lead. The first
was Michaelee Harris’ muffed punt recovered at the Louisville 39 by
Trevon Stewart, who entered leading the nation with eight
turnovers.

Louisville appeared to escape damage when Hakeem Smith
intercepted O’Korn’s tipped pass at the 15 and returned it to the
35. But Cardinals defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin was penalized for
roughing O’Korn, wiping out the turnover and setting up first down
at the 24 and leading to Bullard’s 22-yard field goal with 25
seconds left in the half.

The Cardinals quickly snatched the momentum away from the
Cougars with Brown leading the way.

”We got kind of complacent and got comfortable,” Louisville
coach Charlie Strong said of the first half. ”Offensively, we
didn’t do a good job of continuing to move the football…

”I told (Brown) we were going to ride him, and that’s what you
like to see happen.”