No. 19 Louisville beat Cincinnati 31-24 in OT
Teddy Bridgewater made several great escapes with the game on
the line. Brendon Kay hobbled around on a bad ankle and matched him
in the fourth-quarter cold. It went down to overtime for the second
year in a row.
Some ending for this Ohio River rivalry.
Bridgewater rallied No. 19 Louisville in the fourth quarter, and
Dominique Brown ran 2 yards for a touchdown in the first overtime
Thursday night for a 31-24 victory over Cincinnati in the
Cardinals’ farewell to the American Athletic Conference.
”I told my mom that I wanted to cry, but tears of joy,”
Bridgewater said. ”I’m so proud of this team. We have a lot of
”Coach tells us all the time to ride the wave. We rode it. Then
Cincinnati rode it for a while, but we knew we would ride it again
and we did.”
The comeback clinched the first AAC title for Central Florida,
which had a one-game lead over Cincinnati (9-3, 6-2) heading into
the final weekend. Louisville will play in the Russell Athletic
Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
”It was great to see this team finish the way they finished,”
coach Charlie Strong said. ”You talk about a team with a lot of
resiliency and a lot of heart. There were high expectations this
For the second year in a row, the Ohio River rivals went to
overtime to decide who gets the Keg of Nails, this time for the
foreseeable future with Louisville (11-1, 7-1) leaving for the
Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
The Cardinals won 34-31 in overtime in the rain in Louisville
last season. This one went to overtime on a wet, raw night when
Cincinnati’s Tony Miliano kicked a 26-yard field goal with 7
An interference penalty in the end zone set up Brown’s 2-yard
run to open overtime.
The Bearcats got the ball and wound up with a fourth-and-14 at
the 29, and Kay’s pass went off the hands of Anthony McClung at the
6, ending Cincinnati’s first overtime game at Nippert Stadium since
2003. The Bearcats could be headed to the Belk Bowl.
Bridgewater was 23 of 37 for 255 yards with three touchdowns,
two of them in the fourth quarter. He eluded three tacklers for a
14-yard run on fourth-and-12 to keep one touchdown drive going, and
finished it by scrambling away from defenders and throwing an
off-balance pass for a 22-yard score.
”We’re athletic at defensive end, and we were grabbing air a
lot of times,” Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. ”We had
him in our grasp. That fourth-down run, that was obviously the one
that took the air out of our defense.”
He and Kay kept topping each other in the fourth quarter, but
Cincinnati’s sixth-year senior didn’t have one more big play left
in him. He was 22 of 40 for 304 yards with two interceptions and
two touchdown scrambles, one of which left him woozy.
For Louisville, the game amounted to a farewell.
The Cardinals head off to the ACC next season, leaving
Cincinnati behind. Louisville claimed the final Big East football
title last season, beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl and was favored
to win the first AAC championship.
A loss at home to Central Florida ended the Cardinals’ chances
of winning the league’s BCS bowl berth. Cincinnati’s slim hopes
were extinguished by the loss Thursday.
Both defenses rank in the Top 10 nationally for fewest points
and yards allowed. They dug in a cold rain that made it tougher to
throw and catch the ball, until the two quarterbacks lit it up in
the fourth quarter.
Bridgewater rallied Louisville with two sensational plays. He
slipped away from three tackles for his 14-yard run on
fourth-and-12, then ran around in the backfield avoiding rushers
before throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Damian Copeland with
8:08 left, ending up on his back after the off-balance throw.
”The plays Teddy made in that fourth quarter,” Strong said
with admiration. ”I thought he was sacked. Then he breaks free and
gets the ball to Damian Copeland.”
Kay responded with a 57-yard completion that set up Ralph David
Abernathy IV’s touchdown run, and Bridgewater matched it with a
4-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker and a 24-21 lead with 2:26
to go – just enough time for Kay to lead the Bearcats in range for
a tying field goal.
Kay hurt his left ankle on the opening drive of the second half
and played the rest of the game with a pronounced limp. He went for
an MRI after the game. He also got dazed on his second touchdown
run, getting hit hard by two defenders as he crossed the goal line
in the third quarter.
”That’s how tough the kid is,” Tuberville said. ”You can’t
say enough about him. I’m proud he was my quarterback for the last
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