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Louisville holds off Cincinnati in Brohm's return

Oct 14, 2006 - 11:18 PM LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Brian Brohm had a successful return to the lineup, but Louisville only was able to defeat Cincinnati because of a late defensive stand.

Gavin Smart broke up a pass in the end zone with three seconds left as the seventh-ranked Cardinals extended their home winning streak to 15 games with a 23-17 triumph over Cincinnati in their Big East Conference opener.

The news before the game was the return of Brohm, a star junior quarterback who sprained his right thumb in Louisville's 31-7 rout of Miami on September 16 and underwent surgery a day later. He recovered quicker than expected and looked sharp in this one, completing 20-of-37 passes for 324 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

"We got the win and that's all that matters," Brohm said. "Maybe I wasn't quite as accurate, but I don't want to put that on the thumb. I made those throws all week in practice and should have been able to (today)."

"You're talking about the greatest competitor and one of the toughest guys I've ever coached or been around," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "In John Wooden's 'Pyramid of Success,' at the top is competitive greatness and that's what Brian Brohm has. He practiced really well all week long and I made the decision to play him. He definitely wanted to play and he certainly did a nice job out there today."

Arthur Carmody kicked three field goals for Louisville (6-0, 1-0 Big East), including a 36-yarder that gave the hosts a 23-10 lead with 6:09 to play. It was the third career game with three field goals for Carmody, who has made 25 of his last 26 kicks.

But the Bearcats did not go away quietly. Dustin Grutza completed an 18-yard touchdown to Derrick Stewart with 4:10 left to pull Cincinnati within six points, and the Bearcats forced a three-and-out.

Cincinnati got the ball back at its own 8 with 2:38 to play and no timeouts, but Grutza marched the team down the field. On 4th-and-6 at the Bearcats 37, he found Stewart for a 17-yard pickup, and three plays later, Grutza ran 19 yards to the Louisville 16 for a first down with 18 seconds left.

Grutza spiked the ball on first down and threw incomplete passes to Dominick Goodman and Earnest Jackson around an illegal formation penalty, setting up 4th-and-15. Grutza had great protection on the play, but his pass to Jackson was underthrown in the right side of the end zone, and Smart batted it down to give the Cardinals their fourth straight win for the Keg of Nails Trophy.

"These are the type of games that you want a chance to make a play," Smart said. "I am a short guy and I practice against tall receivers like Mario (Urrutia) and others every day. It was a big play."

"I was trying to give Ernie a chance in the back of the end zone," Grutza said. "I wanted him to come back and get it and he didn't see it as early as I would have liked for him to have seen it. I was trying to give him a chance and things didn't come up."

The Cardinals are off to their first 6-0 start since 1972, when they finished 9-1. They are 19-1 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium under coach Petrino.

"Anytime you don't put somebody away, you start worrying," Petrino said. "It was very worrisome looking at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and knowing that two touchdowns will beat you. But we're going to take it."

"I appreciate our players' effort," Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio said. "We were going up against a good football team. We came down here ready to play, we said it all week. I felt our players came down with conviction. We came up short again. There are no moral victories.

Grutza went 10-of-27 for 129 yards and two touchdowns and ran 17 times for 75 yards for the Bearcats (3-4, 0-2), who have lost eight of the last nine meetings.

Cincinnati took a 10-3 lead on an eight-yard pass from Grutza to Brent Celek with 5:55 left in the second quarter.

But Louisville pulled within four points on a 42-yard field goal by Carmody and took a 13-10 lead into the break on a one-yard pass from Brohm to tight end Gary Barnidge following a fumble recovery.

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