8:00 PM ET, September 1, 2014
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Bobby Petrino watched his offense come together and enjoyed a solid performance by his defense. The opening of the Petrino sequel at Louisville doubled as one successful ACC debut for the Cardinals.
Dominique Brown had a 15-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and Gerald Christian scored on a 10-yard TD catch late in the fourth, leading Louisville to a 31-13 victory over Miami on Monday night.
Despite the 18-point margin, Louisville showed little of the offensive efficiency expected to be a staple of Petrino's second coaching stint at the school. The Cardinals outgained the Hurricanes 336-244 in a ragged offensive game for both teams.
But Louisville's new 3-4 defense had three takeaways in the program's first game in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including one that followed a costly fumble by Cardinals quarterback Will Gardner inside his 15.
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The defense was especially good on third down, allowing the Hurricanes one conversion in 13 attempts.
"We got faith in each other," junior free safety James Sample said. "Coaches put us through the situation where we were backed up, where we have to act like our offense fumbled early in the drive. We were used to it, we were ready for it."
After Louisville held Miami to a field goal following Gardner's second fumble in the third quarter, Brown's TD provided a 21-13 cushion. Christian's scoring pass from Gardner with 1:43 remaining sealed the win.
"I thought it would be a real battle and we would have to work extremely hard," said Petrino, who returned in January to the program he led to a 41-9 record from 2003 to '06. "Obviously, we made some mistakes on offense and on special teams. I thought the defense really did a great job all night long, especially on third down.
"We found a way to win the game."
Corvin Lamb's 97-yard kickoff return right before halftime provided the go-ahead score for Louisville, which had to withstand several Miami threats from there for a win that wasn't decided until late.
Gerod Holliman's interception of Hurricanes freshman Brad Kaaya and 61-yard return to the Miami 36 as time expired punctuated Louisville's gutsy defensive showing. Kaaya completed 17 of 29 passes for 174 yards but was sacked twice and threw two interceptions.
"We did not do a good enough job protecting a first-start quarterback. Period," Miami coach Al Golden said.
Brown finished with career bests of 33 carries for 143 yards. Gardner completed 20 of 28 passes for 206 yards with two TDs but was sacked four times in his first start after being Teddy Bridgewater's backup last season.
Rough as it looked at times, the Cardinals took heart in finishing strong.
"We just wanted to wear them out in the fourth quarter," Brown said. "You know, just run and win, that's what we always preach."
The atmosphere was charged from the moment Petrino led the "Cards March" into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in late afternoon.
Several hours later, the Cardinals took the field under the lights in all-black uniforms with matching chrome helmets to thunderous cheers from a record crowd of 55,428, all but a few dressed in black.
Both teams provided additional drama as Louisville unveiled a new quarterback in Gardner.
Miami featured a newcomer at QB as well in Kaaya and welcomed back tailback Duke Johnson from a broken ankle. Some Hurricanes players also harbored hard feelings after last year's 36-9 bowl loss to the Cardinals.
All that excitement appeared to be a bit much for Louisville at the start. It went three-and-out on the game's first series without gaining a yard.
The Cardinals settled down on their next possession to go 93 yards in 12 plays, and Gardner finished the drive with a 2-yard TD pass to wide-open freshman Charles Standberry.
"It was fun getting that first start under your belt and getting it out of the way," Gardner said. "I felt like we had good preparation so the nervousness was not there. After the first couple of shots, I got into a good rhythm."
Miami recovered from jitters as well to eventually take a 10-7 lead on Kaaya's 2-yard TD pass to Clive Walford and Matt Goudis' 24-yard field goal. Louisville reclaimed the momentum on the ensuing kickoff as Lamb dashed up the middle almost untouched for the 14-10 lead.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||1-13||7-15|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||2-2|
|TD||6:39||Charles Standberry 2 Yd pass from Will Gardner (John Wallace Kick)Watch Highlight||0||7|
|TD||14:21||Clive Walford 2 Yd pass from Brad Kaaya (Matt Goudis Kick)Watch Highlight||7||7|
|FG||4:51||Matt Goudis 24 Yd Field Goal Watch Highlight||10||7|
|TD||4:37||Corvin Lamb 97 Yd Kickoff Return (John Wallace Kick)Watch Highlight||10||14|
|FG||10:54||Matt Goudis 24 Yd Field Goal Watch Highlight||13||14|
|TD||3:34||Dominique Brown 15 Yd Run (John Wallace Kick)Watch Highlight||13||21|
|FG||13:11||John Wallace 28 Yd Field Goal Watch Highlight||13||24|
|TD||1:43||Gerald Christian 10 Yd pass from Will Gardner (John Wallace Kick)Watch Highlight||13||31|
Corvin Lamb's 97-yard kickoff return TD was the longest for Louisville since Nov. 19, 2011 when Adrian Bushell had a 100-yarder in a win at Connecticut.
Miami (FL): 0-6 on 3rd down in 1st half at Louisville... Hurricanes went 0-7 on 3rd down in 1st half of Russell Athletic Bowl vs Louisville last season (lost 36-9)
There was a lot of optimism surrounding Louisville's offense this season with one of the better wideouts in the nation, senior DeVante Parker, returning after a stellar junior campaign in the American Athletic Conference. However, Parker suffered a foot injury in one of the team's final preseason practices that will keep him out for 6-8 weeks. The Cardinals will miss him. Parker's 12 receiving TD last season rank 1st among returning ACC wide receivers and 5th in the FBS. Meanwhile, his 16.1 yards per catch rank 2nd among returning ACC wideouts.[+]
In a League of his Own - DeVante Parker - Ranks Among Returning ACC WR
* Louisville and Miami: will open this season after ending last season (Cardinals def. Hurricanes 36-9 in Russell Athletic Bowl) * Louisville: 1st season in ACC (7-4 vs ACC teams over last 10 years); won last 2 vs Miami, outscoring them 67-16 * Louisville: coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons for 1st time in school history (Miami hasn't had a 10-win season since 2003) * Louisville: 4th in FBS in total defense last 2 seasons (296.4 YPG); Miami ranks 104th in FBS in total defense (455.2 YPG) over same span * Will Gardner (LOU): went 32-of-37 passing for 542 yards, 4 TD in Louisville spring game * DeVante Parker (LOU): out with foot injury (12 rec TD last season leads all returning ACC receivers); 16.1 yds per reception is 2nd-most among returning ACC receivers * Duke Johnson (MIA): 115.0 rush ypg last season (most among returning ACC running backs, 4th-most in FBS) * Miami: went 2-4 in final 6 games after starting season 7-0 * 10 of Miami's 11 FBS opponents played in a bowl game last season * Miami: must replace WR Allen Hurns, who set the school's single-season record with 1,162 rec yds last season
Louisville looking to win its 4th straight debut game as a member of a new conference, all in the last 20 years.[+]
Louisville in Conference Debuts - Since FBS/FCS Split in 1978
Different circumstances for sure, but Louisville note to keep in mind... The Cardinals scored touchdowns on their 1st 6 drives of the game in last year's season opener vs Ohio... They went 3-and-out in their 1st drive tonight.
ESPN Stats & Information