Saturday, November 5, 2011
Final: Louisville 38, No. 24 WVU 35
By Andrea Adelson
Louisville pulled a stunner, beating No. 24 West Virginia 38-35 to win its third consecutive game and stay alive in the race for the Big East title.
The Cardinals (5-4, 3-1 Big East) won in Morgantown for the first time since 1990, dropping the preseason favorites out of the top 25 and out of the conference race as it stands today. Two of the biggest problems that have plagued West Virginia (6-3, 2-2) this season -- defense and special teams -- ended up costing the Mountaineers.
Louisville cornerback Adrian Bushell blocked a 19-yard field goal attempt by Tyler Bitancurt, and Andrew Johnson returned it 82 yards for a touchdown to swing the momentum in the game and give the Cardinals a 31-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. Bitancurt also missed a 32-yard field goal in the game, and Michael Molinari had some terrible punts -- averaging 20.7 yards on the game. One of them, an 11-yarder, allowed Louisville to tie up the score at 21 going into halftime.
Meanwhile, the defense had several opportunities to come up with stops but failed. After West Virginia cut the lead to 31-28, the Cardinals mounted a 13-play, 66-yard drive that included a huge fourth-and-1 conversion. Louisville converted two other third downs on the drive and ended up scoring when Dominique Brown ran it in from 3 yards out.
The Mountaineers got a touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Stedman Bailey with 42 seconds left, but Brown leaped into the air to recover the onside kick and seal the victory for the Cardinals.
West Virginia was able to move the ball on the No. 1 defense in the Big East -- Smith threw for more than 400 yards again -- but you cannot be good in just one phase to win a game. The Cardinals had a season-high in points but if you look at the stats, they only had 15 first downs and averaged 3.2 yards a rush. Still, they made the big plays on offense when they needed to. Teddy Bridgewater has settled into a nice groove, and is going to be a future superstar in this league.
He went 21-of-27 for 246 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and his poise has been one of the most impressive things about watching him play. The Cardinals do need some help to be able to win a league title, because they lost head-to-head to Cincinnati. But in the wild and unpredictable world of the Big East, anything is possible.