Miami, Florida – The University of Louisville found disappointment and heartbreak in the Orange Bowl Thursday night against No. 3 Miami as the Hurricanes overcame a 17 point halftime deficit to knock off the No. 17 Cardinals 41-38.
After falling behind 7-0 early to the favored Hurricanes, Bobby Petrino’s offense caught fire, scoring 24 unanswered points against a Miami defense that had allowed just one offensive touchdown in its first four games to build a 24-7 lead at intermission. The Cardinals amassed 277 first half yards, 206 through the air, while holding Miami to 144 yards and just 1-6 on third down.
“It was a great football game and we prepared well for the game,” Petrino said. “We came out and threw everything we had at them.”
‘They’re a great program and they’ve come back like this before to win,” Petrino said of Miami. “We have nothing to be ashamed of and the players should be proud of the way they played. We just came up a little short and that is unfortunate.”
U of L quarterback Stefan LeFors, who completed 17-22 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns and was sensational against the highly touted Hurricane defense, left the game early in the fourth quarter because of a head injury sustained earlier in the game.
After the game, Petrino said the decision to take LeFors out was made primarily based on the senior missing some checks and audibles following the injury.
“Stefan got dinged a little and we had to take him out,” Petrino explained. “It was the doctor’s call like it always is. He had a great game going and made some unbelievable plays.”
Miami quarterback Brock Berlin, who completed 9-16 passes with one interception in the first half, performed brilliantly in the second half to lead the Hurricanes back from the brink of defeat. For the game, Berlin completed 25-37 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns, and connected on all but one second half pass attempt.
“Brock had a super game, especially in the second half,” Miami Head Coach Larry Coker said. “He’s a tough competitor. He’s going to be sore tomorrow. He’s very bruised up.”
“We played a good team tonight,” Coker said. “They’re extremely well coached and a very good offensive team. This game woke up our defense and Louisville had a lot to do with it. We have to give them credit.”
Billed as the biggest and most important game in the program’s history, the Cardinals started shaky as the Miami defense forced a quick three and out on Louisville’s opening possession and took over on the Cardinals 39-yard line following a 16-yard Brent Moody punt.
The Hurricanes then drove to the Louisville 3 yard-line, before the Cardinal defense held Miami on fourth and one and took control inside their own five yard line.
The Miami defense then forced another U of L three and out on the Cardinals second possession and took over the ball on the Louisville 47 yard line. Seven plays later, Berlin connected with tight end Greg Olsen in the end zone from 9 yards out for a 7-0 lead with 5:22 remaining in the first quarter.
That’s when the U of L offense found its grove, scoring on four of the next six possessions to build their halftime lead.
Following Miami’s first touchdown, the Cardinals drove 84 yards in 9 plays to tie the score at 7 when Lionel Gates scored from the one. After U of L’s tying score, safety Kerry Rhodes intercepted Berlin at the Miami 42 setting up a 31-yard Arthur Carmody field goal for a 10-7 U of L lead.
The U of L defense then forced Miami to punt and LeFors connected with wide receiver Tiger Jones from the 12 yard-line to cap a 9 play, 75-yard scoring drive and a 17-7 advantage.
After forcing another Hurricane punt, the U of L offense drove 80-yards in eight plays that resulted in a 17-yard Gates touchdown reception from LeFors.
After intermission, Miami came out with authority, scoring on their first possession when Berlin found Roscoe Parrish from 14-yards out to narrow the U of L lead to 24-14 and set the tone for the second half.
The Cardinals answered Miami’s score on their next possession when LeFors connected with Jones for the second time from the 22. Louisville’s drive was aided by a gutsy fake punt on fourth and ten that resulted in a 39-yard Lionel Gates run to the Hurricanes 20.
But the U of L defense, who entered the game ranked highly ranked in several statistical categories, simply couldn’t stop the Hurricane attack in the second frame. Miami eventually regained the lead midway through the final quarter when Devin Hester returned a 78-yard Brent Moody punt for a touchdown and a 34-31 advantage.
However, with LeFors on the sideline, freshman Brian Brohm directed a nine play, 80-yard scoring drive to help the Cardinals reclaim the lead at 38-34 with just 4:30 remaining. Brohm completed four passes in the series, including a key pass on 3rd and two to Montrell Jones for 15-yards and a first down.
But as they have done so many times throughout the years, Miami again found a way to win as Hurricane running back Frank Gore scored the game-winning touchdown from one-yard out with 49-seconds left in the game.
With time running out, Brohm launched a desperation pass towards the end zone that was knocked to the ground as the Orange Bowl clock expired, ending the Cardinals upset dreams.
“I thought we had them,” Petrino said. “But unfortunately we didn’t.”
News & Notes:Lionel Gates, who missed the East Carolina due to injury, had one of his finest performances of his career against Miami in the Orange Bowl on Thursday night. The senior from Jacksonville, Florida had 13 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns, with a long of 39, which came on a 4th and 10 punt fake. He also pulled in three receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown, returned five kicks for 74 yards.
True freshman entered the game in the 4th quarter to relieve the injured LeFors and completed 7 of 12 attempts for 51 yards. Brohm engineered a 9-play, 80-yard touchdown scoring drive to give Louisville a 38-34 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the game.
ESPN's Kirk Herbstriet made a special trip to the Louisville locker room following the game to congratulate the Cardinals on their fine performance, Brohm in particular.
Miami's 2nd-rated defense gave up 507 total yards of offense against the Cardinals, including 214 on the ground. U of L went 6 for 6 in the red zone against Miami, who had only surrendered one offensive touchdown on the season.
The Cardinal linebackers continued to play strong. Robert McCune led the team in tackles with 14, while outside linebacker Brandon Johnson made 13 stops and Abe Brown, a Sarasota, Fla native, added six tackles.
The Louisville defense recorded five tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 5 pass breakups and 1 interception.