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November 16, 2013

Louisville stays alive in league title hunt

The No. 20 Louisville Cardinals needed a late defensive stand to fend off a pesky Houston squad 20-13 as the Cardinals stayed in the hunt for the American Athletic Conference title.

Louisville (now 9-1, 5-1) and Houston (now 8-3, 4-2) were tied for second in the league standings coming into Saturday night's game with both hoping for league-leading Central Florida to stumble so they could have a shot at the league's automatic BCS berth.

But earlier today UCF came from behind to beat Temple, squeaking out a victory on a last-minute field goal. UCF's win took a bit of the edge off Saturday night's game, but the Louisville-Houston game was still important. By winning, Louisville stayed in second place in the league and continued to sit one game behind UCF.

The Cardinals still need UCF to lose two of its final three games for Louisville to go back to a BCS bowl, but Louisville is now clearly the league's other top team which means they are likely shoo-ins for the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 at 6:45 p.m.

The Russell Athletic Bowl officials have attended every Louisville home game, and would love to the have Louisville's fan base come to Orlando. That game pits the AAC's second pick vs. the ACC's third pick.

Fending off Houston wasn't easy. Louisville took an early 10-0 lead after a 13-yard touchdown run by Dominique Brown and a 37-yard field goal from John Wallace. Houston scored 13 straight points to take the lead heading into halftime after a pair of field goals and a touchdown run by Kenneth Farrow.

Upset with the "undisciplined" way his team played the first half, Strong let his team have it at halftime. It worked.

The Cardinals had six penalties for 55 yards in the first half. They ended the game with the same number, cleaning up minor mistakes that tend to be drive killers on offense and drive-extenders on defense.

UofL scored 10 unanswered points in the second half - all in the third quarter - and dominated the ball, holding possession for more than 22 of the 30 minutes in the second half.

Louisville regained the lead at the 11:09 mark of the second quarter on a three-yard touchdown run from Brown and added a cushion at the 2:55 mark when Wallace kicked a 39 yard field goal.

Houston had a chance to tie the score with the ball in the final three minutes, but Louisville's defense forced a holding call on first down then had back-to-back sacks before Houston's final two plays failed to yield a first down and Louisville took over on downs.

Louisville junior QB Teddy Bridgewater, who didn't have a touchdown pass for the first time as a starter in his Louisville career, was able to take a knee three times to run out the clock.

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