LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — B.J. Daniels and South Florida tried to make up for the touchdown that got wiped out by a penalty. They simply ran out of time.
An offside penalty on Louisville negated Daniels’ successful plunge on fourth-and-goal late in the third quarter, and the Cardinals stopped him on his second try. Daniels still managed three touchdown passes in the second half, but his final throw was intercepted by Adrian Bushell and No. 16 Louisville escaped with a 27-25 victory on Saturday.
“We came so close, and we wanted the win,” Bulls coach Skip Holtz said. “But unfortunately, we weren’t able to get it.”
South Florida (2-5, 0-3 Big East) lost its fifth straight game despite scoring 15 straight points to take a 25-21 lead on Daniels’ second 12-yard TD pass to Andre Davis with 3:09 left.
“Two minutes left in the game, and I’m sitting there confident because God finally blessed us and helped us win,” South Florida linebacker Sam Barrington said. “Now I’m talking on the other end, and we lost the game. It’s definitely tough, but we won’t allow ourselves to hang our heads. There are five games left.”
The Bulls ran for more yards on Louisville than any other team this season with 197 yards on the ground against a Cardinals defense that was ranked 26th for giving up 114 yards per game. Lindsey Lamar had 110 yards rushing on his own.
Even after Teddy Bridgewater put Louisville in front with his second TD pass, an 11-yarder to Eli Rogers with 1:35 left, the Bulls had the ball last.
Daniels was sacked to start the drive, costing the Bulls 10 yards. Bushell intercepted Daniels’ final pass as time expired at the Cardinals 10, leaving the Bulls with just one win in their last 12 conference games dating to last season.
“Everybody is feeling that hurt,” Davis said. “We knew we could come up here and compete.”
Bridgewater was 21 of 25 for 256 yards, and the sophomore quarterback also led the Cardinals (7-0, 2-0) with 74 yards rushing on 10 carries. He connected with nine different receivers in his seventh straight game with at least one touchdown pass.
“There was a lot riding on that game, bragging rights and things like that,” Bridgewater said. “I am a guy from the state of Florida. I played on high school teams with some of their guys and grew up. The game meant a lot to me.”
But Bridgewater was on the sideline for the one of the biggest series of the game, when Louisville put together a goal-line stand in the third after South Florida thought it had scored not once but twice.
First, Lamar appeared to score on first-and-goal on a 4-yard run. But officials ruled him down at the 1. Daniels tried to sneak in and was stopped. Demetris Murray couldn’t score on third down. Then Daniels pushed up through the left side on fourth down and into the end zone.
But officials flagged Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith for jumping offside, forcing South Florida to line up one more time. Daniels kept the ball and was stopped yet again, sparking a big celebration by Louisville.
“That was a great stand by the defense, and we really needed that,” Rogers said.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong couldn’t recall a goal-line stand like that since he’s been with the program.
“It was first-and-goal and what? The 1-inch line, and they got five downs when we luckily jumped offsides there,” Strong said.
The Bulls closed to 21-18 after Daniels directed an 86-yard, 14-play drive, including a fourth-down conversion. He finished it off with a 13-yard TD pass to Sean Price with 8:02 left. When Louisville was flagged for being offside on the extra point, the Bulls gave the ball to Demetris Murray for the 2-point conversion.
Daniels then found Davis for a 25-21 lead. The drive featured a defensive pass interference call on Bushell where the ball appeared uncatchable out of bounds.
Bridgewater, who completed his first 11 passes of the game, responded by leading the Cardinals on a 75-yard drive of their own. He set up the winning TD pass by scrambling 11 yards, and officials flagged Bulls cornerback Kayvon Webster for a late hit as the QB went out of bounds. A play later, Bridgewater found Rodgers at the back of the end zone.
“I was going to do whatever it took to get the team in the end zone,” Bridgewater said.
DeDe Lattimore blocked John Wallace’s extra point, giving the Bulls a chance to win with only a field goal. But the Cardinals got their fourth sack of Daniels on the opening play of the resulting drive. With no timeouts, the Bulls’ last gasp came on third-and-10 when Bushell grabbed Daniels’ last pass.
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