PITTSBURGH -- While many fans were bemoaning an 11 a.m. homecoming kickoff as they made their way into Heinz Field, the early wakeup call proved no problem for either offense as No. 18 Louisville and Pitt spent most of the first half trading lengthy scoring drives.
But it was Senorice Perry and the Cardinals' offense that heated up with the afternoon sun in a 45-35 victory over the Panthers.
Perry scored four times for Louisville.
Trailing 21-17, Louisville took its first lead of the day on the opening play of the second half. Bridgewater connected on a 75-yard touchdown pass to Devante Parker, who badly beat corner K'Waun Williams. Not only did the Cardinals take the lead with that quick strike, but the play seemed to signal that the visitors were not going to be well-mannered homecoming guests.
With the Louisville defense forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, Champ Lee partially blocked Matt Yoklic's punt. The Cardinals then went 68 yards and took a 31-21 advantage when Perry reached the end zone from two yards out with 10:42 left in the quarter. Perry's score was set up by Bridgewater completions of 29 yards to Eli Rogers and 35 yards to Parker, who made a diving catch.
Louisville's third-quarter assault was not yet complete. After Yoklic, who had a nightmarish quarter, dropped a snap and was smothered at his own 16, the Cardinals upped the lead to 38-21 when Perry scored from one yard out with exactly four minutes remaining.
While wondering what may have hit them after taking the field for the second half, the Panthers collected themselves and made it a two-score game at 38-28 when Sunseri snuck in from the 1-yard line. That concluded a 12-play drive that went 76 yards, but carried into the fourth quarter and consumed 6:19.
Still, there was time. With 4:59 remaining in the game and facing a fourth-and-8 from the Louisville 22, Pitt coach Paul Chryst opted to go for it instead of bringing on kicker Kevin Harper for a 39-yard field goal attempt that might have made it a one-score game. Sunseri overthrew receiver Cameron Saddler across the middle. Louisville took over and closed the scoring when Perry scored his fourth touchdown of the day on a 59-yard gallop down the left side.
The Panthers took a 21-14 with three minutes left in the opening half when Rushel Shell vaulted into the end zone from 2 yards out. But the Cardinals moved down the field within the final minute and trimmed the lead to 21-17 when John Wallace drilled a 45-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining. That proved to be no small detail when considering how Louisville came out in the second half.
Notes: Former Pitt sports information director, college football historian and analyst Beano Cook was honored with a video tribute during the first quarter. Cook passed away Thursday at 81. ... Since starting 2-4 last season, Louisville has won 11 of its last 12 games. ... With the win, the Cardinals evened their all-time Big East mark at 25-25 and are 2-6 in Big East openers. ... Bridgewater's 75-yard TD pass to Parker marked a career-long pass for the quarterback.