By Tom Bragg
Times West Virginian
Momentum is a funny thing in football. When Uncle Mo is on your side, good things tend to happen. When he’s not, well, ask West Virginia University what happened Saturday.
With WVU leading 21-14 late in the second quarter, Louisville was able to drive and even the score going into the break and, in the process, snatched control of the game from the Mountaineers for good, though there was one moment when the Cardinals opened the door to give West Virginia hope.
Leading by a field goal, Louisville faced a fourth-and-1 at the West Virginia 43 with a little more than five minutes to play in the game. Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong called a timeout to talk about what he wanted to do at this very important moment in a very important game.
Strong, in his second year at U of L, went to his bread-and-butter and asked a simple question.
“We looked each other in the eye and (Strong) said, ‘10, can you get it?’ I said, ‘Yes sir.’”
The “10” Strong was speaking to was Dominique Brown, and with that the game was in the sophomore’s hands.
With that, Strong put the game in Brown’s hands, and boy did Brown deliver.
Brown took the handoff on the all-important play from freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and was initially hit behind the line of scrimmage, but was able to twist, turn and dive his way past the first-down marker and extend the Cardinal drive that eventually provided the game-winning touchdown (scored by Brown).
Strong said he made the call to go for it on fourth down on that drive knowing if the Cardinals failed West Virginia was capable of taking the lead once it got possession again.
“I told the defense to get ready because we were going for it,” Strong said. “I said, ‘If we’re going to lose this game, we’re going to lose it right here.’ We needed to get that first down, and Dominique Brown made an unbelievable, unbelievable play. He gets hit and he makes a dive to go and get the first down. Unbelieveable.”
Brown, for his part, was humble when asked about the play.
“It’s wasn’t just a second effort,” he said. “It was more of the offensive line as well.”
Brown finished as the Cardinals’ leading rusher, running for 76 yards on 14 carries.
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The win against West Virginia puts Louisville right in the thick of the Big East race. The Cardinals won their third consecutive conference game with three games remaining. This week Louisville hosts Pitt, then travels to Connecticut (winners on Saturday against Syracuse) and ends the regular season in Tampa against Skip Holtz’s South Florida squad. U of L needs some help in addition to taking care of their own business. Their one Big East loss came to Cincinnati, a team that has not yet lost a conference game.
WVU’s championship and BCS bowl aspirations took a major hit Saturday, but the Mountaineers can do themselves (and Louisville) a favor this week by beating the Bearcats.
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It’s no secret West Virginia and Louisville were both courted by the Big 12 in recent weeks, with WVU getting the formal invitation late last month and accepting a few days later.
There was some bad blood (for the fans at least) because of the Cardinals’ supposed attempt to block WVU from the move, and it was on display at Mountaineer Field on Saturday.
One fan had a sign with Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell dressed like a woman, imploring Cardinal fans to call their legislative representative, and the Louisville players even heard some trash talk thrown in their direction about the Big 12’s decision to bring West Virginia into the fold.
“I don’t think our players even think about that,” Strong said. “It had nothing to do with the way we played today.”
Brown, the guy who scored the game-winning touchdown for Louisville, echoed his coach’s statement about the trask talk not getting to the team, but added that they certainly heard what was being said before the game.
“We weren’t really worried about the Big 12,” Brown said. “I mean, their band was out saying, ‘They picked us and not you,’ but we weren’t really focused on that.”
Back up for a minute. The band? The Pride of West Virginia? Trash talking? I had to ask Brown to clarify. Certainly he didn’t mean that band.
“Yeah,” he said when asked if it was indeed that band. “They were right outside our locker room.”
Ladies and gentlemen, The “Pride” of West Virginia.
Email Tom Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org.