What an incredible turnaround for Louisville: from a 2-4 start to Big East champions.
The Cardinals clinched at least a share of the league title after a 34-24 win against USF -- its first ever victory at Raymond James Stadium. Their hopes of clinching a BCS berth also remain alive. All they need is for Pitt to lose, and Cincinnati to lose at least once in the next two weeks. The Panthers play West Virginia tonight; Cincinnati is at Syracuse on Saturday.
Louisville took control in the fourth quarter, when a series of USF mistakes led to its unraveling. The Bulls, playing without starting quarterback B.J. Daniels, led 17-3 at one point in the second quarter, and took a 24-20 lead into the fourth. The Cardinals decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches from the USF 13, and a great second effort from Dominique Brown allowed them to get the first down. Teddy Bridgewater threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker, who was wide open in the end zone because of a miscommunication in the secondary.
Louisville took a 27-24 lead, then added to it after USF freshman receiver Andre Davis fumbled at the USF 17. Brown rushed for a 9-yard touchdown for the final score. The Bulls really struggled to move the ball in the fourth quarter. Its only score of the second half came on a trick play, when Demetris Murray threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Deonte Welch.
The Cardinals (7-5, 5-2) still need help to make the BCS, but this still has been a remarkable season when you consider all the adversity this team had to overcome -- from its tough start, to having a young team that has had trouble focusing at times this season, to the scary neck injury suffered by Anthony Conner.
Bridgewater is all but assured of winning Big East freshman of the year honors after another solid performance, throwing three touchdown passes on the day. Louisville converted 9 of its 18 third-down opportunities. USF: 4-of-15.
Bobby Eveld struggled with Daniels on the sideline, going 20-of-35 for 210 yards with a touchdown an interception. The problem in the second half was an inability to sustain drives, the same problem that plagued the Bulls last week.
Now USF (5-6, 1-5) needs to beat West Virginia next week in order to keep its string of seven straight bowl seasons alive. The Bulls have blown second-half leads in four of their games this season.