West Virginia 17, Louisville 10
West Virginia kept its hopes for a Big East title alive with a rugged 17-10 win over Louisville on Saturday.
Noel Devine ran for 58 yards and a touchdown and West Virginia's defense hounded the Cardinals all afternoon as the Mountaineers (7-3, 3-2 Big East) set up a showdown with rival Pittsburgh on Friday.
Louisville (5-6, 2-4) was hoping to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007 but could muster little offense. The Cardinals managed just 171 total yards, never got into a rhythm and committed a handful of critical penalties.
West Virginia wasn't much better, but the Mountaineers made enough plays to remain in the thick of the Big East race. Cornerback Keith Tandy's interception with 2:22 remaining snuffed out Louisville's last-gasp drive as West Virginia won a conference road game for the first time this season.
It wasn't pretty, West Virginia's fourth-ranked defense made sure of that.
Louisville came into the game as the Big East's top rushing team, averaging 192 yards a game. Yet the Cardinals struggled to gain any momentum on the ground against West Virginia's quirky 3-3-5 defense.
Bilal Powell finished with zero yards on four carries before an illness forced him to watch the second half on the sidelines. Replacement Jeremy Wright wasn't much better, needing 13 carries to gain 20 yards.
Louisville's leading rusher was punter Chris Philpott, who sprinted 21 yards on a gutsy fake punt call in the second quarter.
The Cardinals could do little through the air too. Senior Justin Burke completed 12 of 24 passes for 145 yards and had little time to throw. He was sacked four times and never looked comfortable. Cameron Graham had seven receptions for 95 yards, but Burke's final pass bounced off his hands into the awaiting arms of Tandy.
Louisville's defense was nearly as good. The Cardinals swarmed Devine and held Geno Smith to 9-for-20 passing for 133 yards. Senior wide receiver Jock Sanders had just two receptions for 11 yards, but did join David Saunders as West Virginia's all-time leading receiver. Sanders now has 191 career receptions.
The Mountaineers only put together two solid drives all game, but it was enough to beat the Cardinals for the fourth straight time.
Devine gave West Virginia an early 7-3 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run and the Mountaineers stuffed the Cardinals on their next possession before Louisville coach Charlie Strong gambled, ordering a fake punt with the ball at Louisville 34.
Philpott darted for a first down, but the drive stalled at the West Virginia 39. Philpott's punt backed the Mountaineers up to their own 15 and Louisville got the big play it needed on the next snap when Rodney Gnat drilled Smith. The ball came flying out and rolled into the end zone, where Daniel Brown fell on it to put Louisville up 10-7.
No biggie. West Virginia needed eight plays to go back in front, the key play coming on a 48-yard pass from Smith to a wide-open Devine that set the Mountaineers up at the Louisville 2. Ryan Clarke bulled over on the next play to give West Virginia a 14-10 lead.
Tyler Bitancurt hit a 43-yard field goal early in the third quarter to push the lead to seven and West Virginia's defense made sure it stood up.
Louisville took just six snaps in Mountaineer territory the rest of the game, meaning the Cardinals need to win at Rutgers next Friday to have a chance at going to a bowl game for the first time since 2006.