In a frustrating yet thrilling back-and-forth game, the Virginia Cavaliers came out on top of the Louisville Cardinals in dramatic fashion, 34-33. Now sitting at 4-2 on the season and 2-2 in conference play, the Wahoos have real hope of continuing to turn their season around and make a run at bowl eligibility.
The game started out positively for the ‘Hoos as the offense marched down the field on an eight play, 85-yard drive that was sparked by a 30-yard completion to Ra-Shaun Henry — who would go on to have a career day with eight catches for 161 yards. The drive culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass to Billy Kemp IV who put UVA up 7-0 just 2:27 into the game.
But, before Virginia could get comfortable, Louisville responded in turn as Malik Cunningham found Tyler Harrell streaking down the field for a whopping 91-yard score to even up the score at seven points apiece.
Following a punt from either side, the ‘Hoos took the lead back with a 25-yard field goal from Brendan Farrell following another long, 34-yard completion to Henry. But, just as they responded after Virginia’s first drive of the game, the Cardinals put together a nine play, 68-yard drive finished off by a 28-yard field goal to tie the game back up.
With an impressive 51-yard catch from Malachi Fields, UVA tacked on another short field goal to make the score 13-10 as the offense continued to struggle to convert in the red zone.
The game remained 13-10 until halftime Virginia forced and recovered a fumble before each side punted and missed 45-yard field goals as offense was hard to come by in the second quarter.
Louisville put an end to that scoring drought as Hassan Hall broke through the Wahoo defense for a 52-yard score which sucked the life out of Virginia early in the half.
Any hopes of responding in tune were quickly dashed for UVA as Brennan Armstrong was picked off at the Wahoos’ own 25-yard line. This set Louisville up perfectly to start adding to its lead and put the Cardinals in a position to pull away early in the second half.
Fortunately for Virginia, the defense came up big and held Louisville to a 28-yard field goal which put the score at 20-13.
But, the next offensive drive was nearly just as disastrous as a holding penalty and a sack put the ‘Hoos at fourth and 28 from their own seven yard line. A paltry 29-yard punt from Jacob Finn made matters worse as Virginia turned the ball back over to the Cardinals on the Cavaliers’ 36-yard line. Louisville converted quickly and efficiently as Jalen Mitchell punched into the end zone off a three-yard run to put the Cardinals up by 14, 27-13.
Virginia’s nightmare of a third quarter continued as Brennan Armstrong took another sack before throwing his second pick of the game, giving the ball to Louisville with tremendous field position once again.
The onus was put back on the Virginia defense to come up big and it did as the ‘Hoos stuffed three different runs from Louisville and forced a Louisville field goal which extended the Cardinals’ lead to a significant but not unassailable 20-point margin.
The Wahoo offense woke up after that as Armstrong led the ‘Hoos on a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 5-yard touchdown run from Keytaon Thompson to put Virginia within 10 points with 12:40 left in the game.
Following that drive, Louisville had no answers for Virginia’s stout defensive front as the Cavaliers forced a second straight punt, giving the ball back to the offense at its own 27-yard line. The group stayed hot as Brennan Armstrong kept finding receivers for chunk gains and successfully drove UVA down the field before hitting Jelani Woods for a three-yard score to make the score 30-27 with 7:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.
A failed drive and a punt from each team meant that Louisville had a chance to put the game on ice with a drive starting at its own 15-yard line with 3:45 left in the game. The Cardinals drove 63-yards down the field and almost scored as Hassan Hall broke out for a 53-yard run before Darrius Bratton made a heroic tackle to prevent a touchdown.
Louisville did however tack on a field goal before giving Virginia the ball back to make it a six-point game and require that the ‘Hoos reach the end-zone to put the game back in reach.
Reach the end zone they did as Brennan Armstrong willed his team down the field with dart after dart over the middle before hitting Keytaon Thompson on a 16-yard pass on 4th-and-eight which put Virginia at Louisville’s one-yard line. On the very next play a beautifully designed play led to Armstrong finding a wide open Grant Misch in the back corner of the end zone. A Brendan Farrell extra point put Virginia up 34-33 with 22-seconds remaining in the game and seemingly put the contest out of reach.
But, as had become expected in this game, there were more twists and turns to come as Louisville easily marched down to the Virginia 31-yard line and set up kicker James Turner for a potential game-winning 49-yard field goal. But, for the second straight week, the Wahoos escaped with a road win following a missed kick as Turner’s attempt went wide left and kept Virginia’s hopes of bowl eligibility well and truly alive.