8:00 PM ET, October 10, 2008
Liberty Bowl, MEMPHIS, TN
Louisville's offense lags, so special teams and defense pick up slack vs. Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Louisville defensive end Rodney Gnat spent three quarters waiting for just one clean shot at Memphis quarterback Arkelon Hall.
When Gnat finally got it, he didn't let it go to waste.
Gnat drilled Hall early in the fourth quarter, knocking the ball free and into the waiting arms of cornerback Johnny Patrick, who raced 21 yards for the winning touchdown in the Cardinals' 35-28 victory Friday night.
It was redemption for the Cardinals (3-2), who lost to Connecticut two weeks ago on a late interception return for a score. It also was a bitter end for Hall, who played brilliantly against the nation's ninth-ranked defense but couldn't rally the Tigers (3-4) all the way back from a 14-point halftime deficit.
• Louisville won despite being outgained 481-299 in total yards and losing the time of possession battle.
• Louisville has won six of its past seven games against Memphis, including four straight in Memphis.
• Arkelon Hall threw for 350 yards and had four total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing, one receiving) in a losing effort.
-- ESPN research
Louisville wide receiver Trent Guy, three months removed from a gunshot wound to the back that nearly took his life, returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and caught a 43-yard scoring pass from Hunter Cantwell to help the Cardinals survive against their former Conference USA rival.
"It's amazing," Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "It's a great story. Trent's a great testament. He's worked hard and done everything we've asked him to do. He's gotten up against a little adversity and he's fought back."
Hall threw for 350 yards and completed a rare trifecta -- throwing for two scores while adding a touchdown rushing and receiving -- but couldn't lead the Tigers to their fourth straight win.
Memphis rolled up 481 yards but the Cardinals made up for it with a pair of spectacular plays on special teams and a couple of late stops to overcome an uncharacteristically sluggish offense.
"We were on the field a bunch, but we found a way at the end to pick up a fumble and run it in," Kragthorpe said.
For three quarters, Louisville seemed to have no answer for a creative Memphis game plan that pulled from the deepest pages of offensive coordinator Clay Helton's playbook.
Wide receiver passes. Screens. Throwback screens. Tackle eligible tosses. Direct snaps to running backs. The only thing missing was a drop-kick. The trickery led to plenty of yards, but not always points.
"Look at the stats, 481 to 299 [in yards] but we can't make those errors we made and win a game like that," said Memphis coach Tommy West.
Though Memphis roared back from a 28-14 deficit to tie it late in the third quarter, the Tigers couldn't get over the top no matter how hard Louisville's offense tried to help.
The Cardinals appeared to take a 35-28 lead on a 13-yard touchdown run by Brock Bolen. A holding call brought that back and Ryan Payne's 36-yard field goal attempt clanged off the right upright.
Memphis couldn't take advantage of the reprieve. Hall was drilled by Gnat four plays after the missed field goal and Patrick picked the ball up and raced to the end zone.
Memphis had two chances to tie. The first drive ended on a failed fourth down at the Louisville 9 with 6:24 to play. The Tigers quickly forced Louisville to punt, but Hall -- who completed 33 passes to 10 different receivers -- missed on three straight passes from the Memphis 32 and the Tigers decided to kick it away with 3:52 remaining.
Louisville's running game made sure Memphis never got it back, churning out a pair of late first downs to run out the clock. Victor Anderson had 81 yards rushing and Cantwell finished with 133 yards and two touchdowns on a gimpy left ankle.
Though the offensive struggled, Guy and Patrick picked up the slack.
After the Tigers took a 14-7 lead on a 1-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Maurice Jones to Hall, Guy responded with a nifty return up the middle to tie it.
Cantwell hit Pete Nochta for 23-yard score to put Louisville up 21-14 when Patrick made the play that turned the game after Memphis brought in walk-on freshman kicker Vinny Zaccario for a 47-yard attempt with 13 seconds left in the half.
Patrick, however, got a hand on the kick and the ball bounced right into the arms of teammate Brandon Heath, who raced 60 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the half to put Louisville up 28-14.
"Our special teams didn't show up and that cost us the game," West said. "There's no question about it and there's no way to sugarcoat it."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-13||7-15|
|4th Down Conversions||2-2||1-2|
|TD||05:42||Arkelon Hall 1 Yd Run (Vinny Zaccario Kick)||0||7|
|TD||11:22||Trent Guy 43 Yd Pass From Hunter Cantwell (Ryan Payne Kick)||7||7|
|TD||07:50||Arkelon Hall 1 Yd Pass From Maurice Jones (Vinny Zaccario Kick)||7||14|
|TD||07:36||Trent Guy 95 Yd Kickoff Return (Ryan Payne Kick)||14||14|
|TD||02:05||Pete Nochta 23 Yd Pass From Hunter Cantwell (Ryan Payne Kick)||21||14|
|TD||00:00||Brandon Heath 60 Yd Return Of Blocked Field Goal (Ryan Payne Kick)||28||14|
|TD||12:59||Earnest Williams 7 Yd Pass From Arkelon Hall (Vinny Zaccario Kick)||28||21|
|TD||01:51||Carlos Singleton 10 Yd Pass From Arkelon Hall (Vinny Zaccario Kick)||28||28|
|TD||12:00||Johnny Patrick 21 Yd Fumble Return (Ryan Payne Kick)||35||28|