Louisville 31, Cincinnati 24 (OT)

Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- Running back Dominique Brown's 2-yard touchdown run on Louisville's first possession in overtime lifted the 16th-ranked Cardinals to a thrilling 31-24 victory over No. 23 Cincinnati on a cold, blustery Thursday evening at Nippert Stadium.
Senior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was 23-of-37 passing for 255 yards and three touchdowns. He helped rally Louisville (11-1, 7-1 American Athletic Conference) in the fourth quarter with two dazzling plays.
Sixth-year senior quarterback Brendon Kay delivered a gutsy performance for Cincinnati (9-3, 6-2 AAC), but his fourth-down pass in overtime to wide receiver Anthony McClung fell incomplete. Kay finished with 304 passing yards.
With Louisville headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, Thursday's game could mark the end of a series that dates to 1929.
Cincinnati grabbed its first lead early in the second half on Kay's 2-yard touchdown plunge, making the score 14-10.
Cincinnati's defense pestered Bridgewater often, sacking him three times. But he still managed to make big plays when Louisville needed them most.
Bridgewater's 14-yard run on fourth-and-12 set up his 22-yard heave to wide receiver Damian Copeland to put Louisville ahead 17-14 with 8:08 remaining. On both plays, Bearcats defenders appeared to have Bridgewater firmly in their grasp.
After Bridgewater's heroics, Kay's 57-yard pass to wide receiver Mekale McKay set up running back Ralph David Abernathy IV's 15-yard touchdown run, putting the Bearcats ahead 21-17.
Bridgewater engineered a 60-yard drive capped by Parker's 4-yard touchdown catch to give the Cardinals a 24-21 lead with 2:26 remaining.
Cincinnati kicker Tony Miliano's 26-yard field goal tied the score with seven seconds left.
Louisville's defense holds opponents to 26 percent on third-down conversions. In the first quarter, Hakeem Smith and cornerback Charles Gaines each had interceptions on third down.
Gaines' pick led to the Cardinals' first score, a 36-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to DeVante Parker that made it 7-0.
Bridgewater was 6 of 14 for 86 yards with a touchdown and one interception in the first half.
Linebacker Nick Temple's sack of Bridgewater stopped a Louisville drive at the 14-yard line and the Cardinals settled for a 31-yard field goal by kicker John Wallace.
The Bearcats got on the scoreboard just before halftime when Kay capped an 11-play, 70-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, making it 10-7.
Kay was 11-of-19 passing for 94 yards and two interceptions in the first half.
Cincinnati held nearly a six-minute advantage in time of possession in an effort to keep Louisville's offense off the field in the first half.
NOTES: Thursday's game was the last one played at Nippert Stadium before an $86 million renovation and expansion gets under way at the nation's third-oldest FBS stadium. Cincinnati will play its home games at Paul Brown Stadium next season before returning to Nippert in 2015. ... The Bearcats, who lead the series with Louisville 29-22-1, won four straight meetings before the Cardinals' 34-31 overtime win last season. ... Louisville safety Hakeem Smith tied a school record by making his 50th career start.

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