For the first time since 2011, Virginia has a win against a ranked opponent. Despite a late fourth quarter push by Louisville, the Cavaliers were able to hold on for an upset victory for the program.
Louisville opened the game with a perfectly executed drive. They handily walked all the way down the field, having only one play on the entire drive not go for positive yards. However, from there until the start of the fourth quarter, the game belonged to Virginia. In the fourth quarter, Louisville found some success on offense with two touchdowns. Regardless, Louisville’s inability to find any sort of rhythm for more than half of the contest is what cost them this football game.
Virginia’s defense played not only up to its potential, but completely shut down Bobby Petrino’s Louisville offense. Will Gardner had six passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, threw two interceptions, and also botched a handoff that led to another turnover for the Cardinals. He was able to throw for two touchdowns, but unfortunately they were too far apart, and the offense stagnant in between. The Virginia linebacking crew wreaked havoc on Louisville’s offense all day. Running back Dominique Brown was still able to put up 74 yards one the ground and get a touchdown, but it was a case of too little too late.
Ultimately, the nail in the coffin for the Cardinals was special teams. Virginia started more than half of its possessions in Louisville territory. Louisville punter Ryan Johnson averaged only 38 yards per punt, and if you take away his 53 yard boomer (you guessed it, in the fourth quarter), his average was only 35 yards per punt. When punting from inside your own 20, 35 yards simply isn’t going to get it done.
Despite poor punting, Louisville was still in a position to win the football game, when James Quick’s touchdown with seven minutes left put the Cardinals up by one. The following possession for Virginia, the Louisville defense came up with a big stop and forced a punt. Things looked great – up one point in the final six minutes and getting the ball back. Then, as James Quick was fielding the punt, Michaelee Harris bumps him, causes a fumble and Virginia recovers, leading to a game winning field goal for the Cavaliers.
For Louisville, this was a tough pill to swallow. After beating Miami, Louisville fans looked forward to a potentially undefeated start at least until they went into Clemson. In reflection after the season, this game will not be as tough of a loss to accept. It was Louisville’s first ACC road game, and a coming out party for Virginia.
For Virginia, this was their first win in three seasons against a ranked opponent, and their first ACC victory since 2012. The magnitude of the victory for the Cavaliers is much like what Louisville experienced week one against Miami, and both teams have proven they are a force to be reckoned with in the developing ACC.
*Section Photo credit to Jamie Rhodes, USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Joe Robbins. Getty Images