The “Battle for the Keg of Nails” rivalry hasn’t taken place in nine years, but the late meetings had major Big East and American Athletic Conference implications.
The last two meetings in the rivalry each went to overtime, which includes the last one at Cardinal Stadium. It came on this day 10 years ago.
In a pivotal Big East showdown, Louisville erased a 10-point Cincinnati lead to top the Bearcats in overtime and remain undefeated, 34-31.
Setting the Stage
Despite playing four games decided by seven points or less, Louisville was 7-0 and ranked No. 16 as it arrived at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Oct. 26, 2012. Entering the contest, the Cardinals had lost four straight to Cincinnati.
The Bearcats were unranked at 5-1 and coming off a disappointing loss to Toledo. For more than 60 minutes, Cincinnati gave Louisville all it wanted.
Louisville Finds a Way
On two occasions, Cincinnati led by 10 points. Two touchdown runs from Ralph Abernathy and another from Munchie Legaux helped the Bearcats take a 24-14 lead midway through the third quarter. Before the period was over, the Cardinals have made it a 1-score game as John Wallace capped a lengthy drive with a field goal.
After three punts, Louisville finally drew even with another long drive — this time in terms of distance and not time. It took just four plays for the Cardinals to go 94 yards as Teddy Bridgewater found DeVante Parker for a 30-yard touchdown.
Following another exchange of punts, Cincinnati had the opportunity to regain the lead, but kicker Tony Miliano missed a 46-yard field goal with less than three minutes remaining. Two plays later, Bridgewater found Parker for a 64-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals their first lead since the opening quarter.
With a 31-24 lead, the Cardinals were one stop from victory. It took just three plays for Cincinnati to answer.
After a nice kickoff return from Abernathy, the Bearcats drew even on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Legaux to Damon Julian with 1:03 left. The defense held and the contest went to overtime.
George Winn rushed for 125 yards for Cincinnati, but his first two carries in overtime netted just one. On 3rd-and-9, Legaux’s third interception of the night — this one by Louisville’s Terell Floyd — put the Cardinals in position to win.
On Louisville’s possession, five straight runs moved the ball inside the Cincinnati 15-yard-line. Wallace’s 30-yard field goal sealed the win.
Louisville dominated statistically with 524 yards to 353 for Cincinnati, but the Bearcats still led most of the way. Bridgewater passed for 416 yards in the victory. Parker led all receivers with 120 yards on four catches.
Box score and recap:
The contest in Louisville would ultimately have major bearings on the Big East race. The Cardinals started 9-0 before suffering consecutive losses to Connecticut and Syracuse.
Cincinnati won four of its final five regular season games with the lone loss coming to Rutgers. For the second year in a row, multiple teams would be tied atop the Big East standings at 5-2 in conference. The Bearcats, Cardinals, Syracuse and Rutgers all finished with the league’s best record.
Cincinnati would beat Duke in the Belk Bowl while Louisville got the BCS nod and topped Florida in the Sugar Bowl, 33-23. Louisville finished 11-2 and No. 13 in the final polls. Cincinnati, at 10-3, finished unranked in the AP Poll and No. 22 in the Coaches.
Without the comeback win against Cincinnati, the Cardinals would not have achieved their first BCS berth since 2006. That win came on this day a decade ago.
Featured image courtesy of Louisville athletics