This didn't appear to be the game that was advertised. At first. The 19th ranked University of Louisville Cardinals should have been tested by the University of North Carolina Tar Heels at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Instead the vaunted UNC hurry up offense just hurried up and punted constantly while their defense let Teddy Bridgewater be the efficient quarterback that made him the Big East Rookie of the Year.
53,334 fans made it for the 4th largest crowd to watch a game in the history of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium history. UofL knew how important the game would be. Big East commissioner Mike Aresco came to town along with basketball gold medalist and alum Angel McCoughtry. The school also presented the mens basketball team with their Final Four rings.
On the field, the Cards scored on every possession in the first half, including 3 Bridgewater touchdown passes as well as scores for the 1-2 running attack of Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright. On defense, Louisville played their toughest half of the season, standing strong on nearly every play and only giving up one touchdown in the first half. The critics all said they needed to step up and they responded.
But for the North Carolina faithful, it was also a game of two halves. The blowout it looked like didn't materialize. Instead the tough Tar Heel team that the Cards were promised came out in the second half while the steller UofL team that started the game seemed to take a vacation when they came out of the locker room.
Louisville played a very shaky third and fourth quarters, as if the emotion of having a a challenge died. In the Cardinal first possession of the second half, Teddy Bridgewater took a sack and the offense turned the ball over on downs. Then the Tar Heels drove 11 yards, ending in a 2 yard Bryn Renner touchdown pass. Meanwhile UNC found openings in the Cardinal defense and capitalized as the wheels came off for the Cards. The Heels scored 3 more times, all Renner touchdown passes. The cracks that North Carolina discovered will show the rest of the Louisville schedule what they need to do.
In the end, however, the UofL defense came up big with Andrew Johnson breaking up a Tar Heel go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:45 left on the clock and UNC having every possible bit of momentum on their side. When the Cards needed to man up, they finally did, but fans this game wasn't for the faint of heart.
UofL QB Teddy Bridgewater finished the game with 279 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, Bryn Renner recovered from a bad 1st half to finish with 363 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Cardinal ground attack did it's job with Jeremy Wright rushing for 114 yards and a touchdown and Senorise Perry close behind with 86 yards and a touchdown.
In the end, it actually was the game that was advertised. The Cards came out of the game with a 39-34 victory.
Photos: Louisville.com/Tim Girton and Max Sharp