Its been sixyears since the Keg of Nails resided in Cincinnati. Its back now and could stay here for quite some time. The Bearcats went into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on a chilly, rainy Friday night and slipped out with a 28-20 victory. It marks just the second time they've beat the Cardinals in 11 years.
It was a tale of two halves as No. 22 Cincinnati (8-2, 4-1) had somewhat of a rough first half while Louisville (5-5, 1-4) was looking like the team that has dominated this rivalry for years. The Cardinals took a 17-14 lead going into the half, but then the second half started and two very different teams came out of the locker room.
The Cardinals made some key mistakes throughout the second half including penalties to negate big plays as well as turnovers that the Bearcats took advantage of. Louisville caused a fumble on the Bearcats opening drive of the second half at their own 9-yard line. The Cincinnati defense stepped up and held them to a field goal, and those three points would be all Louisville would get in the second half.
"I think we can say the rivalry is back," coach Brian Kelly said. "There was a lot of emotion out on the field in this game."
The Bearcats came into this game with a chip on their shoulder after having lost a heartbreaker 28-23 to the Cardinals last season at home. "It means a lot for this program to come in here and win the Keg of Nails," wide receiver Dominick Goodman said. "We'd like to keep it for a long, long time." Goodman is a big reason why the Bearcats now possess the Keg of Nails. He had yet another big game against Louisville, catching nine passes for 134 yards and one touchdown.
Even in the rainy conditions, coach Kelly turned to his quarterback Tony Pike to lead this team in the second half even after having a sub-par first half. Pike answered the call, finishing he game 19-for-33 for 250 yards and two scores. His touchdown pass to Goodman was a thing of beauty. Pike put the ball up for Goodman and he laid out, parallel to the ground, in the endzone for the score. That touchdown put the Bearcats ahead for good. Pike would leave the game in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury.
Enter season starting quarterback, Dustin Grutza who hadn't played in a game since breaking his leg against Oklahoma on September 6th. Grutza showed no signs of being rusty as he led the Bearcats down the field on a five play, 72-yard drive. He hooked up with Goodman on a key play on the drive for a 24-yard gain on third-and-5 that put the ball on the Louisville 43 yard line.
Running back John Goebel would finish out the drive with a big 37-yard dash followed by a 6-yard run for the score. That put the Bearcats up comfortably 28-20 and the defense did the rest.
If there was any negative to take from this game from the Bearcats perspective, its the sudden inaccuracy of kicker Jake Rogers. He missed three field goals in the game, this coming off missing one against West Virginia last week. Before last week he had only missed one attempt. Coach Kelly has a decision to make for next week as to whether to send Rogers back out there or go in a different direction.
Louisville had their chances to take control of the game and to even get back into it when they fell behind in the second half. Questionable play-calling from their coaching staff and penalties that killed drives sent the Cardinals to their third loss in a row. That last time Louisville lost three in a row was back in 1997.
Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell had a decent game throwing for 204 yards and a touchdown, but he had a key interception that ended a solid drive. The offensive line for the Cardinals did a good job of giving Cantwell protection throughout the game, but the Cincinnati defense came up with key stops when it mattered.
It wasn't easy, but the Bearcats got the monkey off their backs when it comes to this rivaly with Louisville. Cincinnati has made a statement now that they're making a run at the BIG EAST title and a BCS Bowl bid. After coming off a huge win on the road last week against West Virginia and now another big road win against Louisville, the only team that really stands in their way of a conference title and the BCS is Pittsburgh. The Panthers come into Nippert Stadium next Saturday night for a primetime game on ESPN2. The River City Rivalry is the last piece of the BCS puzzle for the Bearcats.
The Cincinnati fans made their presence known last night and helped create a crazy atmosphere at a surprisingly non-sold out Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The fans had a lot to celebrate about at the end of the game, and celebrate we did. For this weekend, and at least until their game again next season, Bearcat fans, this Keg's for you!