"I really don't care about yards," Holgorsen said. "We had the yard. We had good yards per game. Our third downs were right about 60 percent (8-for-14). We moved the ball and got in the red zone and had ourselves in position to be 6-for-6, but we couldn't convert on the two field goals, which is the difference in the game."
Tied 21-21 at halftime, WVU linebacker Najee Goode intercepted a tipped pass on Louisville's drive to start the second half. The Mountaineers moved to the 15 and Bitancurt missed a field goal. The Cardinals had to punt and WVU lost a fumble when freshman running Andrew Buie was stripped by safety Hakeem Smith. Cornerback Mike Evans recovered at the 15.
The Cardinals lost seven yards on their three plays and Chris Philpott made a 34-yard field goal. WVU then came up short on a fourth-and-1, but the defense held at its 33 and Smith completed a 46-yard pass to Bailey. The drive reached the 6, but fade pass on third-and-2 wasn't close and Bitancurt was left to try to tie the score.
The last time a WVU opponent returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown was in 2004 when Virginia Tech's Vincent Fuller scored on a 74-yard return in WVU's loss in Blacksburg, Va. Louisville's Josh Chichester blocked a Bitancurt attempt last season that gave the Cardinals one last possession that ended with cornerback Keith Tandy's interception.
Louisville has blocked two field goals this season. William Savoy blocked one against Marshall. Brandon Heath had the last return touchdown on a blocked field goal with a 60-yard return against Memphis in 2008.
Smith lost a fumble on the next possession and Louisville punted before and pinned WVU at the 4. A 46-yard pass to Ivan McCartney keyed a touchdown drive that ended with Alston's second score, this from 8 yards out, to precede Louisville's signature possession.
The Mountaineers endured another slow start, even with an early lead. Brad Starks returned the opening kickoff 62 yards and the offense started at the Louisville 30. On the third play, Smith threw to a spot in the back of the end zone and Austin caught up and then caught the ball for a 25-yard score.
Strong clicked over to defensive coordinator Vance Bedford on his headset. Strong predicted a shootout."I knew our offense could respond," Strong said.
The Cardinals answered in five plays, including a 55-yard run by quarterback-turned-running back Dominique Brown, and tied the score on Jeremy Wright's 8-yard run. WVU's offense stalled at the 44 and Bridgewater completed a 37-yard pass to high school teammate Eli Rogers. Three plays later, fourth-string running back Senorise Perry scored on a 13-yard run.
Louisville, which was averaging two red zone possessions per game, had two in the first quarter and scored touchdowns on both. The run by Wright and the pass to Rogers were two of the five longest plays allowed by WVU's defense this season.
The Cardinals led 14-7 at the end of the quarter and outgained WVU 156-82 despite running only three more plays. The Mountaineers continued a season-long trend. Through nine first quarters, they're being outscored 77-61 and they've trailed six times and been tied once.
The defense swung the game back to WVU, though. After Michael Molinari's 12-yard punt gave Louisville the ball at its 35, defensive end Bruce Irvin sacked Bridgewater on consecutive snaps to force a punt. Smith was then 5-for-5 for 60 yards and ended the next drive with a perfect throw on a fade pattern to Bailey for 5-yard touchdown.
Louisville followed with its first three-and-out of the game after coming up short on third-and-1 and WVU took the lead 21-14 on Alston's 1-yard run. Smith converted two third downs on the drive with an 11-yard completion to Devon Brown on third-and-10 and a 10-yard pass to Bailey on third-and-5.
The Cardinals had another three-and-out, but looked to fake the punt on fourth down with Philpott, who had converted two fakes earlier this season and one last season against the Mountaineers. He had the right side to himself, but Louisville was called for a delay of game.
Following the punt, WVU took over at its 31 with a chance to take control, but had to punt it back to Louisville. Molinari's kick went 11 yards this time and the Cardinals got the ball at their 44 with 1:42 left in the half. Bridgewater went 5-for-6 for 64 yards and a 4-yard touchdown to Parker to tie the score at halftime, 21-21.
Bridgewater was 12-for-13 for 149 yards in the half and the incomplete pass was one he threw out of bounds.