BOZICH | Three and out: Louisville offense stalls in 23-21 loss - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Three and out: Louisville offense stalls in 23-21 loss to Virginia

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WDRB) – Three and out on Louisville's jarring introduction to life on the road in the Atlantic Coast Conference – a 23-21 loss to a shaky Virginia team that had lost its 10 previous conference games.

Four turnovers doomed the Cardinals and inspired the Virginia students to storm the field after the victory was secure.

1. After Louisville coach Bobby Petrino replaced sophomore Will Gardner with freshman Reggie Bonnafon on the final series of the second quarter, talk about a quarterback controversy started percolating.

Let the debate rage – with Gardner back on top as the starter after it appeared that Bonnafon's time had come.

Both Gardner and Bonnafon struggled at time to handle a Virginia defense that overwhelmed the Cards with speed and toughness after the first series. Louisville failed to scored on 11 consecutive possessions.

Bonnafon completed 6 of 9 passes for 39 yards while Gardner was 14 for 34 for 164. Gardner had two interceptions, but also led the Cards to their three touchdowns.

Petrino went with Gardner for all but the final series of the first half, then Bonnafon in the third quarter and back to Gardner in the fourth quarter.

That's correct. The Cards started the game with the ball and the momentum. Gardner marched Louisville 75 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, completing his first four passes and mixing in runs by Dominique Brown.

It was supposed to be a sign to cut the celebration. Virginia had a record of 3-22 during the Mike London Era when the opposing team scored first against the Cavaliers.

It didn't turn out that way. Virginia scored the next 20 points. Then after Louisville rallied behind Gardner for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, James Quick fumbled a punt with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter. That led to a game-winning 42-yard field goal by the Cavaliers.

“This is a tough loss for us,” Petrino said. “We didn't play well enough to win the game. That is the bottom line …

“Yes, there was frustration out there. That's where you need leadership. That's where you have to make plays.”

2. What did the wise guys who wager on college football games in Las Vegas know about the U of L-Virginia game?

Plenty.

I can't remember a point spread that moved as strangely as the spread moved for the Cards-Cavaliers' game.

Louisville opened as a 9 ½-point favorite last Sunday and the number dropped by a full point within five minutes. It was down to 6 ½ by the end of the evening after moving back to 7, it appeared that the spread was going to stay at 6 ½ for the rest of the week.

Not so.

On Saturday morning the money started coming in on Virginia and apparently kept coming. The line moved down to 5 ½ by 10:41 a.m. It jumped – briefly – to 6 and then tumbled all the way to 4 at kickoff.

I asked Brian Edwards of VegasInsiders.com if he had an explanation. This is what Edwards said (by e-mail):

“I don't see anything in terms of late injury disclosures, so I would assume it was just a lot of big bets coming in on Virginia.”

Vegas knows. At least they knew Saturday.

3. One thing seemed certain about Louisville's schedule this season: The Cards trip to Florida International next Saturday was assured of being the most user friendly game of the year.

Slow down. The Panthers might not the Get Well card they appeared to be while losing their season opener to Bethune Cookman 14-12. FIU bolted to a 16-0 lead over Pittsburgh, another Atlantic Coast Conference team, Saturday in Miami.

Of course, the Panthers roared back to win, 42-25.

The game will start at 3:30 and be televised by FoxSports1. It should not be much of a test, but will be a homecoming for a Louisville team that recruits South Florida.

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