Posted October 19, 2013

UCF shocks undefeated Louisville to take control of the AAC

American Athletic Conference?, Charlie Strong, George O'Leary, Louisville Cardinals, UCF Knights
Storm Johnson

UCF’s ability to control the line of scrimmage with the running game was a key part of Friday’s win. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

If No. 8 Louisville was supposed to march through the AAC without any trouble, nobody bothered to tell UCF. The Knights went into Louisville on Friday and shocked the Cardinals, 38-35, killing any talk of Louisville as BCS Championship contenders and putting Charlie Strong’s team at real risk of missing out on the American Athletic Conference’s automatic BCS bid.

Louisville didn’t exactly blow anybody away with its win over Rutgers last Thursday, and those discounting the Louisville schedule will point to these two games as reason enough the Cardinals aren’t elite or in the class of the top of the SEC, Pac-12 or even the ACC — where they’ll play next season.

Against a feisty UCF team, rankings or national perception didn’t matter. Escaping with a win was the only thing the Cardinals cared about, and they couldn’t take care of business on Homecoming. The AAC is extremely top heavy, and the team to make it out of this game alive had the fast track to an automatic BCS bowl bid. The Knights already beat Penn State and gave South Carolina a game earlier this season. While George O’Leary’s team wasn’t ranked coming into this game, it very well could have been. Coming into today, Football Outsiders had the Knights No. 23 based on their efficiency index — Louisville was third.

Although the battle between Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles was the story coming into the game, the running game was a major factor for both teams. UCF’s Storm Johnson and William Stanback combined for 174 yards and three touchdowns, and a fumble by Louisville’s Senorise Perry deep in his own territory with 4:44 left in the third helped swing the momentum toward the Knights. 

UCF rallied to score back-to-back touchdowns and cut the deficit to 28-21. Another rushing touchdown by the Knights with :30 left in the third quarter and it was a tie game. With a soft schedule, Louisville hadn’t played a complete 60 minutes against a marquee opponent, and this was another game where the Cardinals left the door open. It finally bit them.

“They kept clawing away, fighting back,” O’Leary said of his team in a postgame interview with ESPN. “One score, another score.”

A 34-yard field goal by Shawn Moffitt gave the Knights a 31-28 lead, and for the first time in 2013, the Cardinals found themselves trailing.

The air seemed to go out of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with that counterpunch from UCF, and everyone looked to Teddy Bridgewater to help the Cardinals regain their composure. Sometimes mistakes pile up to the point where they’re impossible to come back from. Louisville’s chances were hurt by the Perry fumble, as well as a fumble by Ryan Hubbell late in the first quarter that touched the UCF pylon and gave the Knights a touchback.

There’s the expectation the Louisville Heisman Trophy candidate can carry his team for a reason, and he made a couple of drive-saving plays on the Cardinals’ next possession, including a shovel pass to Dominique Brown on third down that looked like a play a five-year NFL veteran would make — shades of vintage Brett Favre. Brown scored on the next play, and Louisville retook the lead.

Bridgewater finished the game 29-of-38 for 338 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to keep Louisville’s dream season hopes alive. Bortles engineered some magic of his own, driving the Knights 75 yards in 2:37, capped off by a Jeff Godfrey two-yard touchdown to put UCF up 38-35 with under 30 seconds to play.

Nobody gave anyone else a shot in the AAC, but UCF now controls its own destiny. And Louisville is left still looking up in the rankings, this time in its own conference.

14 comments
Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Did anyone really think that Louisville deserved to be ranked at #8? Seriously?

iammagicland
iammagicland

How exactly did UCF take control of the AAC? Houston is undefeated, UCF isn't, though both are undefeated in conference play. Just like the media were handing the conference to Louisville, now they're giving it to UCF for no reason. There's a reason they actually play the games, folks. For that matter, if Rutgers beats UCF, there'd be a 3-way tie between Louisville, UCF and RU. Nobody's anywhere close to taking control of that conference.

HarshRealities
HarshRealities

UCF won the game yet the led of this story, as is most of the story, about Louisville.  Same thing happened after UCF knocked off Penn State. How about more writing about how UCF overcame a 21 point deficit in the second half and stormed back to win the game.

RichardStorm
RichardStorm

"Everyone looked to Teddy Bridgewater to help the Cardinals regain their composure."................that's the problem, though...... Teddy Bridgewater  is no Johnny Manziel......With that being said, Texas A&M has a really tough game, tomorrow.....It could be who ever has the ball last wins the game....Hopefully, Johnny has the ball last, instead of Auburn....

MikeL1
MikeL1

I think all college football fans just let out a huge sigh of relief. No more worries about undefeated Louisville mucking up the championship.

UCFSols18
UCFSols18

"Golden Knights".  LOL.  Using that 2006 UCF Press Guide again?

iammagicland
iammagicland

@WilyCoyoteSuperGenius Yeah, UCF hardly deserves to be there, with wins against pushovers like Louisville and Penn State, and a close loss to South Carolina...

MarkCleary
MarkCleary

@HarshRealities This is SI, where they're ecstatic that Boy Raping U is getting some of their scholarships back, because they're Penn State, and, well, they're Penn State.  Don't expect them ever to give credit where credit is due to a newer, upstart team.  (Louisville gets a pass because of basketball.  Same reason SI is so happy that UNC almost beat Miami.)

MarkCleary
MarkCleary

@RichardStorm Johnny effectively had the ball last, and lost the game for his team.  Feel brilliant now?

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

@RichardStorm I'd take Teddy over johnny dumbazz anyday if only on character. But that said, BOTH are over rated for nfl and Cards are found to be the joke the FANS knew but not the media

MarkCleary
MarkCleary

@MikeL1 I let out a sigh of relief because #8 went down.  So did #7 and #9, and #6 isn't looking too healthy.  As either #3 or #5 must also lose, we should be #5 tomorrow.  Still trying to figure out how they'll screw us out of it...