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    Louisville football falls short, loses to Florida State 42-31
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    Was it possible that the University of Louisville football game versus Florida State contained the most drama in Cardinal football history? The second largest crowd in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium would find out. The Cardinals hung tough against the highest level of competition they’ve faced in years but came up short 42-31.

    With the likes of Muhammad Ali, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Deion Branch and Jack Nicklaus in the stadium as well as representatives from the New Era Pinstripe Bowl and the Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl, it felt like major college football. Then there were the story lines.

    Consider the following. The level of competition Louisville (6-3, 4-3 ACC) has faced since entering the Atlantic Coast Conference is a significant upgrade. In their first season in the ACC, the Cards battled Miami, Clemson and FSU (8-0, 5-0) with Notre Dame waiting in the wings. South Florida, Rutgers and Florida Atlantic seem like tune-up schools in comparison.

    And then there are the quarterbacks. Louisville started Will Gardner and fans hoped they’d have the Gardner that stared down the Hurricanes rather than the Gardner that was pulled in favor of freshman Reggie Bonnafon versus Virginia. On the other side was redshirt sophomore Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston who is as adept at reading defenses as he is at giving Maalox moments to the NCAA rule committee.

    So with those questions, the number one defense in the nation hit the field in their new gray unis against the undefeated number two overall team in the nation under the lights and the SkyCam of ESPN in front of 55,414 screaming fans. In the first half the Cardinal D gave the Seminoles all they could handle.

    The Cards came into the contest with all their offensive stars healthy for only the second time all season. DeVante Parker returned in the NC State game and tied his career mark in receptions with 9. Michael Dyer was coming off a 173 yard rushing game against that same team. If there was ever a time the Cardinals needed people healthy it was Thursday night.

    And since Parker’s in the game, why not throw him a 71 yard pass? That’s what the Cards did on their first play from scrimmage. Dyer, however, couldn’t punch it in on first or third down so they went for it on fourth but Will Gardner’s pass fell incomplete.

    Winston came into the game to start from his own 2 but only drove his time to near midfield. On the ensuing punt, James Quick’s penalty meant the Cards would start in the shadow of their own goal posts as well. It’s a position Louisville has gotten to know well over the season.

    Knowing how good Winston is, the stadium exploded when he was forced to take a sack. It was almost as if the defense knew they had a chance to prove their legitimacy and they wanted to take every advantage. They would need to play like that because, while the Cardinal offense moved the ball some, they had trouble converting third downs. On the stat sheets, the teams played evenly through the first quarter.

    To open the second stanza, Dyer did what he couldn’t do in the first. He plunged into the end zone from four yards out to draw first blood and give the Cards a 7-0 lead.

    And, if he stadium had a roof, it would have been in tatters when James Burgess intercepted Winston followed by a Parker 21 yard reception. Then Dyer went in from 12 yards out for his second TD run of the game. Just like that the Cards found themselves two touchdowns up on the second ranked team in the country.

    On their next possession, Winston threw it to Gerod Holliman who obliged with his ninth interception of the year. Gerald Christian rewarded the team with an eleven yard TD reception. The slow starting Seminoles would have to put something together before it got out of hand.

    FSU answered finally in the last two minutes of the half by driving the length of the SportTurf and got the ball over the goal line on a variation of the old fumblerooski play. Winston fumbled the exchange and the Noles fell on it in the end zone. The end result was that one of the nations best teams scored on accident. They went into the locker room with the Cards leading 21-7.

    To open the second half, Holliman picked off Winston again, but fumbled the return to keep the ball in FSUs hands. Had he held on, windows may have shattered.

    Instead Winston recovered to play like a reigning Heisman Trophy winner. It’s not like fans didn’t see it coming but it was still a sight to behold. All of the Cardinals best work was undone in one quarter. The third ended with Louisville hanging on to a 3 point lead, 24-21.

    In the fourth, FSU went ahead 28-24 on a Winston to Ermon Lane pitch and catch. And the air started to go out of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The faithful were still engaged, but they began to doubt that their team could pull off the upset.

    Gardner plugged the leak by tossing a 51 yard pass to Parker. Then Dyer pushed them into the red zone. Shortly after, he capped off the drive with his third touchdown of the game. The Thursday night showcase game on ESPN had Louisville ahead 31-28.

    Dalvin Cook scored on a 38 yard scamper to pop the Cardinal balloon again but left Gardner and crew 3:46 on the clock to see what they could come up with. The Noles wanted to protect their 35-31 lead. That margin meant the Cards needed a touchdown to go home happy. They failed to convert a fourth down and FSU scored again to seal the win.

    Michael Dyer finished the game with 28 rushes for 134 yards and three touchdowns. DeVante Parker had 7 catches for 214 yards. Will Gardner passed for 330 yards. Louisville heads to Boston College next Saturday evening at 7:15.

    Photos by: Max Sharp/Louisville.com

    Tim Girton's picture

    About Tim Girton

    Tim Girton writes about University of Louisville sports here at Louisville.com and his love for Louisville continues on his photoblog, called This Is Louisville.

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