The UConn defense did the job that many in college football thought impossible. It stymied, controlled and contained the vaunted Louisville offense.
UConn became the first team this season to hold the Cardinals and future NFL quarterback Brian Brohm under 28 points.
But it seemed like it would be all for naught, as the UConn offense was virtually invisible through three quarters.
But when the pressure was on the offense finally came to life in the fourth quarter, putting together two touchdown drives to lead UConn to a 21-17 victory over Louisville before an announced crowd of 40,000 at wet and windy Rentschler Field.
The Huskies are now 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big East, the only unbeaten team in conference play. Louisville is 4-4, 1-2. The Huskies, who had lost all three previous games against the Cardinals, also became bowl eligible with their sixth win.
Dixon finished with 115 yards on 22 carries and the go-ahead 5-yard touchdown run with 1:32 left.
The game included a controversial 74-yard punt return for a touchdown by Larry Taylor for UConn's first score, after some Louisville defenders let up, thinking Taylor had called for a fair catch. Although Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe protested to officials, a fair catch call is not reviewable.
Brohm was 29 of 41 passing for 228 yards and one touchdown, with two interceptions.
Louisville opened a 17-7 lead when Huskies running back Donald Brown fumbled on second-and-3 from the UConn 34-yard line and 290 pound defensive tackle picked up the ball and rumbled 32 yards for a touchdown with 11:35 left in the fourth quarter.
But UConn began its next drive from the 50 and made quick work of getting downfield and back within 3.
On third-and-10 from the 50, quarterback Tyler Lorenzen hit Andre Dixon with a screen pass and Dixon went down the sideline for a 15-yard pickup. On the next play Lorenzen ran himself, then hit D.J. Hernandez in the left side of the end zone for 7 yards on second down to cut the Cardinals lead to 17-14 with 10:02 left.
UConn got the ball back late in the fourth quarter, starting on its 29. On the first play Lorenzen hit Brad Kanuch over the middle for 17 yards. A pair of runs by Lorenzen and Dixon gained another 11 yards, putting UConn at the Louisville 43. On second-and-9 from the Lousville 42, Lorenzen hit Terence Jeffers over the middle for 18 yards and then hit Jeffers for another 4 on the next play to put UConn at the Louisville 20 with clock ticking down to 2 minutes.
From there Dixon ran to the right, rolling through defenders for a 13-yard gain to the 7. Dixon followed up his 2-yard run with a 5-yard run to put UConn up 21-17 with 1:32 remaining.
Louisville's last hope ended when linebacker Danny Lansanah intercepted Brohm's deep pass at the UConn 20 with 15 seconds left.
On its first possession of the game, UConn found a way to fumble twice and keep the ball, but three times was too many.
On first-and-10 from the UConn 42, the Huskies' third play from scrimmage, Lorenzen ran up the middle, fumbling at the UConn 46. Tight end Steve Brouse fell on the ball at the 50. A 12-yard Dixon run on the next play put UConn at the 38. Two plays later Dixon went up the left sideline and fumbled close to the line, but the ball went out of bounds before anybody could fall on it, putting the Huskies at the Louisville 19.
Dixon went for 2 yards on the next play, but UConn's Martin Bedard was called for a false start on second down. On third-and-13 Lorenzen found Dixon on the right side and he went for 9 yards to set up third-and-4 from the Louisville 13. But Lorenzen lost the handle on the ball at the snap and defensive end Brandon Cox fell on it.
Louisville started from its 18 and drove to the UConn 45 before stalling. Louisville wide receiver Doug Beaumont downed Corey Goettsche's punt at the UConn 1-yard line.
UConn went three-and-out on the ensuing drive and Desi Cullen shanked the punt, putting Louisville at the UConn 39 to start its second drive.
Fullback Brock Bolen went for 12 yards on the first play and then for 5 on the second to put Louisville at the UConn 22. Bolen picked up 2 on the next play to set up a third-and-3 from the UConn 20. Brohm found Bolen on a screen wide open on the left side and Bolen rumbled to the UConn 5.
Bolen ran to the UConn 1 on first down, but lost 3 yards on second down. On third-and-goal Brohm scrambled and was sacked by defensive end Cody Brown, but Brown was called for a facemask, putting Louisville at the 2 with a first down. On the next play Brohm found tight end Scott Kuhn in the right corner of the end zone to put the Cardinals up 7-0 as time expired in the first quarter.
UConn took over on its 44 after the kickoff and for the second time in three possessions, drove deep into Cardinals territory only to come away with nothing.
Consecutive runs of 10 yards and 12 yards by Lorenzen and Dixon, respectively, put UConn at the Louisville 34. After a run for no gain by Brown, Lorenzen ran for 16 yards to put UConn at the 18. Two Dixon runs put UConn at the 9, but on third-and-1 Dixon got nothing. Instead of attempting a 26-yard field goal, UConn went for it on fourth down, but a stutter step by Brown as he tried to cradle the pitch from Lorenzen slowed him enough that Louisville's Rod Council was able to knock him for a 1-yard loss and give the ball to the Cardinals.
Louisville took over on its 10 and got to the UConn 42 before stalling.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times