An excellent defensive performance allowed the Louisville Cardinals to defeat the Miami Hurricanes 31-13 in Bobby Petrino's return to the school. It was also Louisville's first game as an ACC member.
Both teams went three-and-out to start the game, but Louisville would start the scoring on their second drive. There was a heavy dose of running back Dominique Brown, but Will Gardner's arm got the biggest chunk of yards on the drive. Gardner went 5 of 5 for 50 yards and a touchdown. The drive was capped with an easy pitch and catch to Charles Standberry.
Miami would have an opportunity to get on the board late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter. Stacy Coley had an electrifying return that was called back 10 yards due to a block in the back. Still, the Hurricanes were starting their drive at the Louisville 38.
Miami was down to a fourth and 5 at the Louisville 33, but their drive continued when Terrell Floyd was called for pass interference. Three plays later, Miami was in the end zone when freshman Brad Kaaya found Clive Walford from 2 yards out to tie the game at 7.
On the ensuing drive for Louisville, Will Gardner fumbled when he was hit by Anthony Chickillo and Thurston Armbrister recovered the fumble at the Louisville 7. Miami's good fortune would not last long.
On Miami's first play, Kaaya horribly under threw Coley, which caused Coley to bobble the ball and he was unable to get a hold of it. Louisville's Keith Kelsey picked the ball up and ran it back for a touchdown, but the referees had already blown the play dead calling it an incomplete pass. An official review revealed Kaaya's pass was a backwards lateral and recovered by Louisville. The Cardinals got the ball back, but were not awarded the touchdown.
Louisville would not be able to do anything with their possession while Miami came back on their next drive and got a 24 yard field goal courtesy of Matt Goudis.
Miami's lead last all of 14 seconds as Corvin Lamb took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown. Lamb went 97 yards nearly untouched by the Miami special teams unit. Louisville took a 14-10 lead, a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
Miami would open the scoring in the second half with another 24 yard field goal from Matt Goudis. The Hurricanes were set up by another Will Gardner fumble. Thurston Armbrister got the sack and strip, while Raphael Kirby recovered the ball. The deficit was cut to one point at 14-13.
Louisville added a 15 yard touchdown run from Dominique Brown on a run that Brown was not touched until close to the goal line to make it 21-13. Brad Kaaya threw an interception on Miami's next drive, which led to a 28 yard field goal from John Wallace.
Miami had a chance to close the gap early in the fourth quarter. On fourth and 4 from the Louisville 33, Kaaya's pass intended for Stacy Coley was knocked down and gave the ball back to the Cardinals.
The Cardinals drove down the field and bled the clock to put the game out of reach. Louisville went 67 yards in 14 plays and took 7:47 off the clock. The drive was capped off by a Gardner 10 yard touchdown pass to Gerald Christian and Louisville led 31-13.
Kaaya was intercepted on the last play of the game at the Louisville goal line by Gerod Holliman to put an exclamation point on Louisville's defensive domination.
Kaaya finished 17 of 29 for 174 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. Duke Johnson had 90 yards on 20 carries, but he earned every single one of those yards and found the Cardinals constantly tackling him for no gain or a loss. Herb Waters led the Hurricanes with 6 catches for 61 yards. Speedster Phillip Dorsett had one catch for 39 yards that led to the first field goal for the Hurricanes.
Louisville's Will Gardner, who was making his first start, went 20 of 28 for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns. Dominique Brown was the workhorse of the offense with 33 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown. Eli Rogers had 5 catches for 65 yards while Gerald Christian had 6 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
If Louisville's defense continues to play like they did on Monday night, and Will Gardner develops into a solid quarterback, Louisville could be a force to reckon with in their inaugural season in the ACC.
Miami will take on Florida A&M next week back home. Louisville also faces an FCS opponent in Murray State on Saturday.