After struggling to move the ball at all in the first half, Cincinnati rode the play of a ferocious defense and took advantage of a young and bumbling Louisville offense to dominate the second half en route to a 25-16 win.
The first half gave Louisville several opportunities to put distance between itself and Cincinnati, and the Cardinals could not take advantage. With two possessions that drove deep into Bearcats' territory (one all the way to the one yard line), Louisville was held to two field goals. A defensive touchdown right before halftime gave the Cardinals a 16-7 lead heading into the locker room. The Louisville defense put together a solid first half, holding Cincinnati to just 146 yards.
The second was a completely different story. Cincinnati's defense held Louisville to three first downs in the third quarter and three in the fourth and overwhelmed the Cardinals' young offensive line. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was constantly under pressure and the running game completely disappeared under the heat generated by Cincinnati defensive lineman Derek Wolfe and his teammates up front.
With the Louisville offense constantly stalling and killing itself with sacks, penalties, and dropped passes, the Cincinnati offense finally got things going and scored on a one yard run from Zach Collaros and a 50 yard touchdown run by Isaiah Pead iced the game midway through the fourth quarter. After rushing for just 51 yards in the first half, Cincinnati wore down the Cardinals up front, rushing for 127 in the second half.
The loss drops Louisville to 2-4 and makes a bowl bid a near impossibility with the meat of Big East conference play still to come. It's probably time for Charlie Strong to have a long, hard look at the entire offensive staff that, while admittedly working with an extremely young team, doesn't appear to be developing much and is doing little in terms of play-calling does virtually nothing to mitigate the limitations that its youth puts on the team. Mike Sanford has already been let go, but Strong would probably be justified in making an wholesale renovation of his offensive staff in the offseason. The Cardinals haven only scored three offensive touchdowns twice in six games, and for the fourth time this season rushed for less than 100 yards. even with mediocre offensive statistics, the team would likely be 5-1 instead of 2-4 and facing a bowl-less offseason.
With the win, Cincinnati virtually guaranteed itself a return to the postseason in Butch Jones' second season as head coach. After struggling with turnovers and a bad defense in 2010, Cincinnati is protecting the ball better and getting a tremendous amount of pressure form its own front four. The Bearcats can run the ball, make plays in the passing game when needed, and play sound defense. They're a legitimate contender for the Big East title and could very well make a run at their third BCS bowl in four years.