Marshall beats Louisville 17-13, on late TD
The Louisville celebrations after beating Kentucky lasted a week too long.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong thought a bye week following the 24-17 win over its in-state rival on Sept. 17 - the program's first win against Kentucky in four years - would be enough time to put the game behind his young team. But he said the Cardinals were flat all week in their preparation for Marshall, spurring Saturday's 17-13 loss at home to the Thundering Herd.
''Guys are still patting themselves on the back and we are still talking about it,'' Strong said of the win at Kentucky. ''That's what happened today, that's what you saw today. Guys still lingering over that win. There was no passion.''
Louisville senior defensive lineman William Savoy, who blocked a 19-yard field goal attempt against Marshall, said the team lacked energy this week.
''I could see it in practice,'' Savoy said. ''We were not as focused as we should be. Maybe some of the team was hyped up from beating Kentucky. You have to get past that. It was a good win, but we have the whole season left.
The Cardinals' cold start against Marshall - they finished the first quarter with minus-9 yards offense and didn't muster a first down until 6 minutes into the second quarter - turned the game into a scrum. It also allowed the Thundering Herd to rally for the win behind two fourth-quarter interceptions of Louisville's freshman Teddy Bridgewater, who was making his first collegiate start.
Rakeem Cato's 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Crawford put Marshall ahead with less than 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter and Marshall held on.
Omar Brown helped seal the victory with an interception of Bridgewater's pass on the second play of the ensuing drive. The ball was tipped in the air by teammate Darryl Roberts and Brown dove forward along the sideline, cradling the ball against his chest before it reached the ground.
The game-winning touchdown drive was set up when Bridgewater scrambled on a third-and-9 from his own 20 and fired to Josh Bellamy along the Louisville sideline. Bellamy wrestled with Tyson Gale for the ball with the Marshall linebacker emerging with it at the Louisville 30-yard line with 4:32 left to play.
''Those two captains came up big time for us,'' Marshall coach Doc Holliday said of Gale and Brown.
Cato won the battle of freshman quarterbacks, going 18-for-30 for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Bridgewater finished 20-for-29 with a touchdown through the air and another on the ground, but also threw the two fourth-quarter interceptions. The two quarterbacks were high school rivals in Miami with Cato's Miami Central besting Bridgewater's Miami Northwestern en route to a Florida state high school crown last year.
Holliday said the game came down to which of the two young signal callers could limit their team's miscues.
''There were two freshman quarterbacks going against each other, and what it came down to was who made the lesser mistakes,'' Holliday said. ''And fortunately Cato did today.''
Marshall, which came into the game ranked 112th of 120 in total offense, looked sharp early as Cato capped a 12-play, 79-yard drive with a 2-yard fade pass to receiver Isaiah King on the game's opening drive. The first Louisville first down came from Victor Anderson's 17-yard rush from the Louisville 5-yard line with just more than 9 minutes left in the second quarter. That run sparked a 15 play, 93-yard drive that ended with Bridgewater vaulting into the end zone after scrambling on third-and-goal from the 9 to tie it at 7-7.
Marshall got the ball at the Louisville 45 following a 32-yard return from Andre Booker that was advanced 15 yards thanks to a Louisville personal foul. It was one of Louisville's 11 penalties compared to Marshall's three. After picking up just 14 yards on seven plays, Tyler Warner's 48-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright, giving Louisville the ball back with 1:27 left before halftime.
Louisville needed just three plays to score before the break when Bridgewater threw over the middle to his release outlet, Anderson, who broke a tackle in midfield and scampered up the Marshall sideline for a 41-yard touchdown. Chris Philpott's extra point attempt was blocked, giving Louisville a 13-7 lead going into the half.
Both teams missed field goals in the third quarter - the first a blocked 19-yard attempt by Savoy - before Marshall made it 13-10 on a 24-yard kick by Justin Haig with a minute left in the third quarter. That set up the game-winning touchdown from Cato to Crawford.
Marshall improves to 2-3 while Louisville falls to 2-2 with both losses coming at home to nonconference opponents.
Strong earned a bowl victory last year in his first season as a head coach but said there's still much work to be done to rebuild the Louisville program.
''We have all kinds of problems,'' Strong said. ''This program is nowhere near where it needs to be. We have a long ways to go and we have eight weeks to go and eight games and we have to get it fixed.''