Scores

Final

North Carolina 34

(1-2, 0-1 ACC)

(19) Louisville 39

(3-0, 3-0 home)

Coverage: ABC/ESPN2

3:30 PM ET, September 15, 2012

Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, LOUISVILLE, KY

1 2 3 4 T
UNC 0 7 7 2034
#19LOU 15 21 0 339

Top Performers

Passing: B. Renner (UNC) - 363 YDS, 5 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: J. Wright (LOU) - 20 CAR, 114 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: R. Morris (UNC) - 5 REC, 149 YDS, 2 TD

Louisville blasts North Carolina early, holds on late to earn win

Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville went from cruising to 3-0 to desperately trying to remain undefeated.

Andrew Johnson deflected a fourth-down pass in the end zone by North Carolina's Bryn Renner with 1:53 left to give the Cardinals a 39-34 victory against the Tar Heels on Saturday.

Leading 36-7 at halftime behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and up by 25 early in the fourth quarter, Louisville survived a 20-point rally by Renner, who passed for five touchdowns and just saw a sixth go off Johnson's fingertips.

"We had to come up with a big-time play in a big-time game," Johnson said. "I saw (Tar Heels receiver Erik Highsmith) jump and I knew I would outjump him, so I got my hand on the ball and tried to strip the ball. ... But with (losing) such a big lead, no coach should be happy."

Cardinals Coach Charlie Strong certainly wasn't, despite the best start of his three-year tenure. While Louisville has proven it can score quickly and in bunches, it has also allowed Kentucky and Missouri State to regroup in the second half.

That annoying pattern almost cost them against the Tar Heels (1-2).

"At the end of the day we still won the football game," Strong said. "We have us a good team and we just need to learn how to finish."

Louisville scored on its first six possessions thanks to three first-half touchdowns and 218 yards by Bridgewater. He finished 23 of 28 for 279.

Renner settled down from a rough first half to rally the Tar Heels (1-2) from a 36-7 deficit with four second-half touchdowns, including a screen pass to Romar Morris for a 50-yard touchdown with 4:23 remaining.

North Carolina's Norkeithus Otis then forced Adrian Bushell to fumble the ensuing kickoff, and the Tar Heels recovered at the Cardinals' 10. But after moving to the 3, North Carolina was penalized for a false start. Two plays later Renner's pass for Highsmith was batted away by Johnson.

Renner was 26 of 41 passing for 363 yards with one interception.

"I thought second half we came back and competed our butts off," Renner said.

It marked a second consecutive close loss for North Carolina (1-2), which rallied from a 21-14 deficit to briefly lead at Wake Forest before ultimately falling 28-27. It was also the Tar Heels' second straight game without star tailback Giovani Bernard. Receiver Jheranie Boyd also sat out.

At the start, North Carolina was out of sync and dug its hole with two first-half turnovers that Louisville quickly converted.

"We came out playing football from another universe or something," Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron said.

Right after Louisville marched 62 yards for its first touchdown and a 6-0 lead, Renner lofted a pass right at Louisville's Marcus Smith.

Bridgewater made it 12-0 on the next play, eluding the rush to find Charles Gaines wide open in the end zone on a post pattern.

After John Wallace's 22-yard field goal made it 15-0, Renner hit Morris for 15 yards, which would have left the Tar Heels with fourth down. But he fumbled after coming down with the ball, upheld on review, and was recovered by Adrian Bushell at North Carolina's 45.

Seven plays later Bridgewater hit Eli Rogers for a 15-yard score with the sophomore alone for the final 10. A rout was building at that point, and the Cardinals didn't let up.

Louisville went into sustained-drive mode, at least by its standards. The Cardinals went 84 yards but in just five plays, highlighted by Bridgewater's 36-yard crossing pass to Andrell Smith for first down at the Tar Heels' 44 and an 11-yarder to Scott Radcliffe.

Wright carried twice for the final 33 yards, capped by a 12-yard run. The next one went 10 plays and 69 yards, ending with Nick Heuser's 4-yard TD pass from Bridgewater.

"Last week we learned to come out and put our foot on the gas from the start," Bridgewater said. "This week, we learned we have to finish."

North Carolina got on the board with Renner's 44-yard scoring pass to Morris, cutting the lead to 29-7. The junior also hit Ebron for a 2-yard TD in the third quarter and Highsmith for a 9-yard score early in the fourth.

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Team Stat Comparison

 
UNC
LOU
1st Downs2027
Total Yards410462
Passing363279
Rushing47183
Penalties6-386-53
3rd Down Conversions6-116-12
4th Down Conversions0-10-1
Turnovers21
Possession21:3638:24

Passing Leaders

North CarolinaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Renner26/413638.951
LouisvilleC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Bridgewater23/2827910.030

Rushing Leaders

North CarolinaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Blue7436.1013
Morris4235.8012
LouisvilleCARYDSAVGTDLG
Wright201145.7121
Perry16865.4113

Receiving Leaders

North CarolinaRECYDSAVGTDLG
Morris514929.8250
Highsmith66210.3116
LouisvilleRECYDSAVGTDLG
Gaines57815.6132
Smith24522.5036

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERUNCLOU
TD09:31Senorise Perry 13 Yd Run (Two-Point Pass Conversion Failed) 06
TD08:01Charles Gaines 32 Yd Pass From Teddy Bridgewater (Two-Point Pass Conversion Failed) 012
FG02:25John Wallace 22 Yd 015
SECOND QUARTERUNCLOU
TD11:25Eli Rogers 15 Yd Pass From Teddy Bridgewater (John Wallace Kick) 022
TD07:59Jeremy Wright 12 Yd Run (John Wallace Kick) 029
TD06:19Romar Morris 44 Yd Pass From Bryn Renner (Casey Barth Kick) 729
TD00:46Nick Heuser 4 Yd Pass From Teddy Bridgewater (John Wallace Kick) 736
THIRD QUARTERUNCLOU
TD05:09Eric Ebron 2 Yd Pass From Bryn Renner (Casey Barth Kick) 1436
FOURTH QUARTERUNCLOU
FG13:38John Wallace 43 Yd 1439
TD12:02Erik Highsmith 9 Yd Pass From Bryn Renner (Casey Barth Kick) 2139
TD08:22Eric Ebron 5 Yd Pass From Bryn Renner (Casey Barth Kick) 2839
TD04:23Romar Morris 50 Yd Pass From Bryn Renner (Two-Point Pass Conversion Failed) 3439