Rutgers followed a familiar blueprint in its 5-1 start: play aggressive defense, win the turnover battle and avoid mistakes that cost games.
In a 16-14 loss to Louisville on Friday night, major mistakes ultimately cost the Scarlet Knights (5-2, 2-1 Big East). True freshman quarterback Gary Nova threw three interceptions -- including one with less than 2 minutes to go that sealed the loss. It was the first time all season Rutgers lost the turnover battle (minus-2). Meanwhile, kicker San San Te missed two field goals (31, 25). Receiver Mark Harrison dropped a sure touchdown late in the fourth quarter that would have put Rutgers ahead in the game.
The defense, which had a league-leading 24 sacks going into the game, had none on a Louisville offensive line that has struggled all season. Teddy Bridgewater played well enough, and his 18-yard touchdown pass to Michaelee Harris in the third quarter ultimately made the difference.
For Louisville (3-4, 1-1), there were plenty of signs of encouragement. The run game actually worked Friday, as the Cardinals had a season-high 186 yards rushing -- including 107 yards from Jeremy Wright. The offensive line played much better. The defense was able to hold on to a lead. In losses to Marshall and to Cincinnati last week, the Cardinals were unable to preserve halftime leads.
There was a scary collision in the first half on which Louisville cornerback Anthony Conner was seriously injured after tackling Mohamed Sanu. Conner had to be carted off the field and suffered a broken neck. He did have movement in his extremities.
Much of the luster is off next week's matchup between Rutgers and West Virginia because of what happened Friday night. Meanwhile, Louisville hosts a suddenly resurgent Syracuse team that took it to the Mountaineers.