Cardinals Too Much
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
November 2, 2006
This time West Virginia couldn’t dig itself out of a deep hole to beat Louisville. Last year the Mountaineers overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Cardinals in overtime. Thursday night, Louisville took advantage of three West Virginia turnovers and also got a special teams score to knock off the No. 3-ranked Mountaineers 44-34 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky.
The win puts No. 5-ranked Louisville into the national championship picture with an 8-0 record. The loss snaps West Virginia’s 14-game and nine-game conference win streaks.
"It's been a long time since we lost a game and we're not going to point any fingers but we just didn't play a very good football game," said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. "We made some uncharacteristic mistakes, some turnovers, our special teams were not very good tonight and when you do that against a good football team at their place you're going to get beat."
Both teams had trouble stopping each other, the two combining to gain a Big East-record 1,008 yards of offense between them.
But the game turned sour for West Virginia during a five-minute stretch in the third quarter when Malik Jackson picked up a Steve Slaton fumble and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown. The Cardinals then got a 40-yard punt return by Trent Guy for a TD to turn a 16-14 halftime lead into a more comfortable 16-point advantage.
The Mountaineers tried to keep pace with Louisville’s high-powered offense, getting three second-half Patrick White touchdown runs but West Virginia just couldn’t find an answer for quarterback Brian Brohm’s hot hand.
The junior completed seven passes of 20 yards or longer against West Virginia’s young secondary, mostly in the middle of the field. Brohm had time to throw and had plenty of open receivers to throw to, completing 19 of 26 passes for 354 yards and a touchdown.
"We had some guys in position to make plays but sometimes we missed a sack; sometimes the underneath coverage wasn't where it was supposed to be," Rodriguez said. "I've got to watch the film."
Henry Douglas (116) and Mario Urrutia (113) each had more than 100 yards receiving, combining for 12 catches.
"They hurt us with some first-down play action stuff and we told the guys," Rodriguez said. "(Louisville) executed well and we didn't tackle particularly well.
"I don't think our guys quit but we obviously didn't play very well on defense, we didn't play very well on special teams, and the offense made a few critical errors at key times."
Kolby Smith and Anthony Allen did their part on the ground for Louisville, combining for 120 yards and a pair of Allen rushing TDs.
The result ruined a magnificent all-around performance by White, who accounted for 347 yards of total offense. The Daphne, Ala., native ran 23 times for 125 yards and scored four touchdowns, and also completed 13 of 20 passes for a career-high 222 yards. For a good part of the third quarter, the entire West Virginia offense was on White’s shoulders when Slaton was sidelined after hitting his elbow on the turf during his first fumble.
Slaton returned in the fourth quarter and helped the Mountaineers to a pair of scores. He finished the game with 156 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, and also caught three passes for a career-high 74 yards.
"Steve hit his funny bone and he tried to tough it out I guess," Rodriguez said. "He didn't have much of a grip on the ball and the second fumble he shouldn't have been out there.
"He thought he'd be OK with it and he's not a fumbler," Rodriguez said. "Eventually the feeling came back but it took a quarter for all of the strength to come back."
Darius Reynaud led the Mountaineers with four catches for 78 yards. The Mountaineers had six fumbles, losing three, and was flagged seven times for 68 yards.
WVU had 318 yards rushing and 540 yards of total offense. Louisville finished with 468 total yards.
It was West Virginia’s first loss in 39 games when scoring 30 points or more dating back to 1998.
It was the first victory for Louisville coach Bobby Petrino over a Top 5-ranked team and his second over a ranked team as a Cardinal coach.
Louisville has now won 16 straight at home – the second-longest home winning streak in the country. The Cardinals have games remaining against Rutgers and Pitt on the road, and at home against South Florida and Connecticut.
West Virginia (7-1) faces Cincinnati in Morgantown on Nov. 11, and then has games remaining against Pitt, South Florida and Rutgers.
"It's a loss, the sun will come up eventually and we've got a lot of football left," Rodriguez said. "We've still got a lot of goals out there and we can still compete for a Big East championship and a lot of other good things are still out there."
When the game ended many of the Louisville-record 43,217 fans stormed the field in celebration.
UL – Carmody 39 FG
RUSHING: WV - Slaton 18-156, White 23-125, Schmitt 5-28, Reynaud 1-6, Bruce 3-3, Total 50-318; UL - Smith 13-73, Allen 12-47, Spillman 1-5, Douglas 1-2, Bolen 1-1, Brohm 4-minus 14, Total 32-114.
PASSING: WV - White 13-20-0-222-0, Team 0-1-0-0-0, Total 13-21-0-222-0; UL - Brohm 19-26-0-354-1.
RECEIVING: WV - Reynaud 4-78, Slaton 3-74, Myles 3-50, Bolden 2-26, Schmitt 1-minus 6, Total 13-222; UL - Douglas 6-116, Urrutia 6-113, Riley 3-73, Smith 2-34, Carter 1-12, Thompson 1-6, Total 19-354.
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