On the last home game of the 2012 season, the University of Louisville football Cardinals entered Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to celebrate Senior Day. In town to spoil the party were the University of Connecticut Huskies, a team with the 9th ranked defense in the nation, though their offense has serious challenges. In the end, the Huskies took down the #18 Cardinals 23-20 in triple overtime.
The last senior day didn’t go so well. Two weeks ago when the Cards visited Syracuse, who were celebrating their own Senior Day the Orange manhandled Louisville and sent them home smarting from a 45-26 loss, the first Cardinal loss of the season.
The Cards learned a bunch of things during the Syracuse loss two weeks ago, but something that escaped their notice was the energy of Senior Day. The Orange came out and took care of business. Conversely, the Cards came out with a distinct lack of energy. Because of that, they played their most uninspired half of football in the Charlie Strong era.
The Husky defense helped. They didn’t make Teddy Bridgewater throw short or make his receivers drop passes that were in their hands. UConn flew to the ball and got a great deal of help from an illegal horse collar tackle at the end of the first half that took Bridgewater out of the game. It cost the Huskies 15 yards and an untimed down. It may have cost the Cards rest of their season.
The Louisville defense played adequately but did nothing spectacular. Calvin Pryor, Adrian Bushell and Preston Brown came to play, but the rest of the defense just looked cold and like they wanted to walk back to the Johnny Unitas statue and get in the locker room.
On a day when officials from the Orange Bowl were in town, they probably didn’t leave with a good impression. On a day when members of the 1972 Ohio Valley Conference team were honored, they probably didn’t leave with a good impression either.
The team obviously missed Senorise Perry, who went down in the Syracuse game with a season ending ACL injury. A lot of the hard running yards the Cards got used to didn’t come. Corvin Lamb didn’t play poorly but didn’t do much as Perry’s replacement.
In the 3rd quarter, them team showed a few flashes of excitement with the ability to throw the ball with replacement Will Stein. The problem came with catching the ball. Stein went long, but it wasn’t caught much.
And suddenly Bridgewater came back in the game. He looked better even though you could see the injury continued to give him problems. At the same time, the offensive line still let the sacks come. And even with that, Bridgewater gutted out most of the rest of the game. He tried to go deep, but had more success in the short passing game.
The Cards finally got on the board at 11:40 to go in the 3rd quarter with a John Wallace 19 yard field goal. For fans that have watched the Cards all season, this was alien territory to have a 0 on the board for so long. On the ensuing set for UConn, their quarterback Chandler Whitmer got his bell rung on a hard tackle and had to leave the game.
On the final drive of regulation, Bridgewater directed the offense the way he usually does. He remained in the shotgun the entire time and spread the ball around the way he should have been doing the rest of the game. He hit DeVante Parker on a 6 yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds to go to knot the game and 10 and send it into overtime.
During the overtime period, Bridgewater got shellacked and went down with another injury, this time to his knee. That brought Will Stein back onto the field to try to direct the Cards to the end zone. Failing to do that, John Wallace kicked a field goal that put them up. UConn answered with a field goal of their own.
That meant double overtime. UConn got the ball first and scored a 3 yard touchdown to Shakim Phillips. That put tons of pressure on the Cards to keep up. With that, Bridgewater retook the field. Tough kid.
And in one play, that tough kid put it in DeVante Parker’s hands for a 25 yard TD strike to force a third overtime. On the third overtime, UConn’s Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepted the potential go ahead score. All the Huskies needed was a field goal to win the game. Chad Christen obliged and gave the Cards their second defeat of the season. They head to Piscataway, New Jersey to take on Rutgers and finish off the regular season on Thursday.
Photos: Louisville.com/Tim Girton