On a Friday night that marked the 100th Louisville football game played at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, U of L's dream of a perfect season and an outside shot at a berth in the BCS title tumbled all the way down to something called the Russell Athletic Bowl.
As WDRB's Rick Bozich points out, the Dec. 28 bowl in Orlando is the tie-in for the team that finishes second in the American Atheltic Conference standings, which is where the Cards could easily land after Friday's 38-35 loss to visiting Central Florida.
Louisville led 28-7 with 7:52 left in the third quarter. Even after the visiting Knight scored three touchdowns in a blitzkrieg that lasted just 4:20, even after Charlie Strong's decision to decline a holding penalty at the U of L 17-yard line paved the way for the visitors to kick a 34-yard field goal for a 31-28 lead, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did what Heisman Trophy candidates do, driving the home team 88 yards in nine plays to take a 35-31 lead with exactly three minutes remaining.
Louisville couldn't hold that lead, however. The star of this game was the Central Florida offensive line, which helped pound U of L's defense for 196 yards on the ground. (Louisville entered the game allowing 68.3 rushing yards per game.) George O'Leary's team drove 75 yards in 11 plays for the game-winner with 23 seconds remaining.
It should also be noted that early in that decisive drive, Central Florida faced a third-and-four at its own 27-yard line when Louisville defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin jumped offsides, giving the visitors a first down. The Knights took it from there.
No one should have been shocked at the outcome. Central Florida entered the ESPN Friday showcase iwth a 4-1 record, the lone loss coming 28-25 to South Carolina. UCF's Blake Bortles is the best quarterback you don't yet know, but probably do know now. Running back Storm Johnson was a top recruit coming out of high school.
Louisville had dreams of climbing to the top of the polls, but those are over now. The problem with the Cardinals' soft schedule is that it's hard to stay tough week after week after week. Especially when every opponent is gunning for you.
Eric Crawford of WDRB got it right when he wrote, “Central Florida looked like Louisville a decade ago.” The Knights played like a team trying to win. Louisville played like a team trying not to lose.
There's just one problem with that Russell Athletic Bowl on December 28. That's the same date of the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game.
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