If this is the last Keg of Nails game for a long stretch of time, at least it is going out in style. No. 19 Louisville (11-1, 7-1 AAC) and Cincinnati (9-3, 6-2 AAC) exchanged scores in the fourth quarter, and the two rivals needed to settle the score in overtime. Louisville scored first in overtime and then held Cincinnati out of the end zone for a 31-24 victory. With the result, UCF clinched a spot in a BCS bowl game. Louisville has already accepted a spot in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.
Louisville saw an early 10-0 lead slip away midway through the third quarter when Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay pushed forward just enough to pick up a short touchdown run, his second of the game, to give Cincinnati a 14-10 lead. That lead would hold in to the fourth quarter. Midway through the fourth quarter the fun got started. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, one play after being taken down shy of a first down, worked some magic to escape would-be-tacklers to extend a 4th and 12 play for a first down and later tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Damian Copeland to cap a 13-play, 86-yard drive to regain the lead, 17-14. The play was a thing of beauty with Bridgewater again avoiding defenders to keep a play alive before heaving a rainbow to the right corner of the end zone for Copeland. Cincinnati wasted little time in striking back.
Kay completed a 57-yard pass to Mekale McKay to quickly enter the red zone, and one play later Ralph Abernathy rushed right up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown to take a 21-17 lead. As was the theme for the fourth quarter, this was not the end of the scoring. Bridgewater again drove Louisville’s offense down field, and he put Louisville back in front with a short touchdown pass to DeVante Parker on a play that appeared to have pass interference on both sides with no call. Up 24-21, Louisville could not hold on to the lead, with Cincinnati stretching the field in similar fashion to the way UCF defeated Louisville with a late score. This time Louisville managed to hold Cincinnati to a field goal, which led the game in to overtime tied at 24-24.
Louisville running back Dominique Brown scored a short touchdown run in the first overtime possession for a 31-24 lead, and Cincinnati’s final attempt on a fourth and long attempt fell incomplete to seal the fate of the game, and for UCF’s bowl plans.
UCF is now guaranteed the top spot in the American this season. No matter what happens at SMU on Saturday, UCF can do no worse than tie with Louisville for the conference crown. Thanks to an earlier head-to-head victory over the Cardinals, UCF wins the tiebreaker for the conference’s automatic BCS berth. UCF will play in their first BCS bowl game in bowl history.
Louisville finishes the regular season with a respectable 11-1 record but will not be in the BCS at-large conversation considering all of the teams still in front of them and the likelihood of Northern Illinois advancing to a BCS bowl game. Still, the success of the Cardinals this season will provide some momentum as they begin to shift conference affiliations from the AAC to the ACC next year. The big question left to answer for now is whether or not Bridgewater will be there or playing Sundays.
Bridgewater’s final game of the 2013 season may not have been overly impressive just by looking at the numbers, but he had his moments that make you say “wow.” Considering the shallow depth of the NFL’s quarterback class of 2014, Bridgewater could be a certain high draft pick.
Cincinnati had their shot to win a share of the conference championship, but the 10 wins achieved this season suggest this program will remain one of the top teams in the American in 2014.