Clinging to a tenuous 7-point lead with less than seven minutes left in the game, the Louisville defense found itself in a bad spot. On second and goal from the U of L seven, UK quarterback Andre Woodson scampered around end for what appeared a sure touchdown.
That’s when the 6-5 Johnson came up with the play of the game, stopping Woodson’s progress just short of the goal line while in the process jarring the ball loose and recovering the fumble at the two-yard line.
After that crucial fumble recovery, the Cardinals put the ball – and the game – in Bush’s hands. And he delivered, carrying eight times as U of L marched 63 yards to the Kentucky 35 before running out the clock for their third straight win over the Wildcats.
“I don’t even know what happened,” Johnson said of the play he made against Woodson. “I saw him running, we met and he tried to run me over. But I wrapped him up and kind of felt my hand on the ball. Then we went down and I looked around and saw the ball on the ground.”
Louisville, which entered the game as a 22-point favorite, looked like they were going to pull away from Kentucky after taking a 28-7 halftime lead.
But the Wildcats wouldn’t go away quietly in the second half. Behind Woodson’s passing and a strong defensive effort, UK closed the gap to 28-17 heading into the final period. And when Woodson hooked up with tight end Jacob Tamme for a 15-yard touchdown with 11:52 left in the fourth quarter, U of L’s lead had been trimmed to seven.
“We were lucky to get out of here with a win,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “That was a heck of a ballgame, particularly in the second half. We’re certainly happy with the victory.”
The Cardinals built their first half lead behind the strong running of Michael Bush, who gained 86 yards before halftime, and two forced fumbles by Elvis Dumervil that led to two Cardinals touchdowns.
Dumervil came up big for U of L, putting constant pressure on Woodson the entire game. He had 12 tackles and a U of L record six sacks. He also forced two fumbles, recovering one, and made 7 tackles for loss.
“I was really happy the way our players opened the game up,” Petrino said. “We had a lot of energy and started the game how you’re supposed to. Our defense played well in the second quarter, created turnovers and gave our offense a short field.”
Bush ended the game with 128 yards rushing on a career-high 27 carries and two touchdowns. U of L junior running back Kolby Smith also had an excellent outing, rushing for 76 yards.
Brian Brohm was solid in his first start, completing 19-27 passes for 179 yards, while rushing for two touchdowns. Most importantly, the 6-4 Brohm didn’t commit any turnovers. Broderick Clark led the Cardinals receivers with 4 catches for 45 yards.
UK’s Woodson completed 17-27 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns, while Rafael Little rushed for 71 yards. Wide receiver Keenan Burton caught four passes for 98 yards.