UConn rallies to beat Louisville

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell never saw Lawrence Wilson until the Connecticut linebacker had the ball in his hands, racing the other way for the winning touchdown.

Figures, the Huskies have a way of sneaking up on people.

Wilson’s 45-yard interception return with 2:45 remaining sealed a late UConn rally as the Huskies slipped by Louisville 26-21 on Friday night, serving notice that their quick start is hardly a fluke.

“We had just enough in our gas tank to get it done,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “We’re banged up, beat up, but we just have to live with it.”

Having Donald Brown around should help. The nation’s leading rusher piled up 190 yards and a touchdown, helping the Huskies (5-0, 1-0 Big East) stay in it after starting quarterback Tyler Lorenzen went down with a broken right foot. He will have surgery on Sunday, Edsall said.

Sophomore Zach Frazer threw for 90 yards and a touchdown in place of Lorenzen and wisely let Brown do most of the work. The junior carried the ball 33 times and accounted for all but 83 yards of UConn’s total offense, turning nothing into something often enough to let the Huskies hang around.

Louisville (2-2, 0-1) moved the ball effortlessly at times and piled up 508 yards of total offense but squandered several opportunities to put the game away.

“I thought we moved the ball well, but we were our own worst enemy,” Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said. “You’ve got to control the football when you have it and we didn’t. Obviously a disappointing loss. We thought we let it slip away.”

Redshirt freshman running back Victor Anderson ran for 100 yards and had a touchdown running and receiving, and Bilal Powell added 112 yards and a touchdown, but Louisville had trouble throwing the ball after quarterback Hunter Cantwell injured his left ankle in the third quarter.

Cantwell tried to play on with the Cardinals clinging to a one-point lead, but gave it away when he tried to hit Doug Beaumont for a crucial first down. Instead, the ball landed Wilson’s hands and he raced down the right sideline for the score.

The touchdown came after a request from offensive line coach Mike Foley, who got tired of seeing Wilson make big plays in practice and asked him to make one in a game instead.

“He was like, ‘Hey, I need a pick six this week, run it back,”’ Wilson said. “So I guess it happened.”

Cantwell refused to blame the interception on the injury.

“That’s a throw, hurt or not hurt, you can’t make,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and say my ankle caused it.”

Cantwell finished with 247 yards a touchdown and two interceptions, but threw for just 37 yards in the second half.

Louisville had two more chances after Wilson’s interception. One drive ended on a failed fourth down and the other with an interception in the final seconds.

The Huskies had hoped to use the game as validation that they were for real, but for long stretches in the second half it appeared the Cardinals were on the verge of getting some revenge for a controversial UConn win last year and reasserting themselves as a factor in the Big East.

Instead, the Cardinals found another way to lose a winnable game. Again.

“I don’t know how to explain it, we beat ourselves,” said Louisville defensive end Maurice Mitchell. “We had some bad plays happen.”

Often, at the worst possible times.

A late hit on Frazer helped the Huskies extend a drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Frazer to Darius Butler that cut Louisville’s lead to 21-17 with 4:19 left in the third quarter.

A couple of false start penalties later derailed a pair of Louisville drives, allowing the Huskies to hang around just long enough to win it.

“I don’t know where we’re going from here, but I just know this: whatever we ask them to do, they’ve done for us,” Edsall said.

The Cardinals trailed by 10 early but took control in the third quarter, asserting their dominance during a grinding 55-yard touchdown drive that consisted of seven straight runs. Anderson carried it the first four plays, with Bilal Powell taking the final three carries, the last one from 5 yards out that put the Cardinals up 21-10.

Brown fumbled on UConn’s next play, but Louisville couldn’t muster any points, one of five Cardinal drives that ended in UConn territory without them registering a point.

Louisville entered the game second in the country in rush defense, having given up just 126 yards through its first three games.

Brown nearly had that by halftime, including a 1-yard run that gave the Huskies a 10-0 lead.

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D. Brown D. Brown, RB
33 Rush, 190 yds
1 TD
V. Anderson V. Anderson, RB
19 Rush, 100 yds
1 TD
1 Rec, 18 yds, 1 TD