LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Louisville was on a roll, having scored on all four of its possessions in the third quarter to grab the momentum and build a seemingly comfortable 30-13 going into the final 15 minutes. After all, coach Scott Satterfield was 14-1 at UofL with a lead after three quarters.
"You get up three scores in the second half, we felt pretty good about having the game in hand," Satterfield said. "We're in good shape."
Instead, for the second week in a row, the Cardinals (3-3, 1-2 ACC) couldn't hold on and Virginia (4-2, 2-2) scored on all four of its fourth quarter drives to hand them another heartbreaking loss, 34-33, Saturday afternoon in front of 40,320 stunned fans in Cardinal Stadium.
UofL's fate was sealed when usually reliable sophomore kicker James Turner sent a 49-yard field goal wide left at the buzzer, with fate inflicting another cruel blow on the Cards on the heels of their 37-34 defeat last week at Wake Forest.
Turner was a perfect 6-for-6 from 40-49 yards in his career at Louisville and had been dead on the mark throughout the game, drilling kicks down the middle of 38 and 40 yards, and two of 28 yards to tie a school record for number of field goals in a game.
"It was not out of his range," Satterfield said of the 49-yarder. "He's been perfect from outside of 50 and we've got great confidence in him. He's knocked down a lot of field goals for us."
Virginia's winning touchdown came on a 1-yard pass to big tight end Grant Misch, only his third reception of the season.
Misch was wide open in the end zone with 22 seconds remaining and was one of many examples that the UofL defense had no answer for Virginia's cool-headed southpaw quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who completed 40 of 60 passes for a career-high 487 yards, with three touchdowns. RaShaun henry led Virginia with nine catches for 179 yards and Keytaun Thompson also had nine receptions for 132 yards.
"Armstrong does a great job when he sits back there and has time," Satterfield said. "Very poised and does a great job of finding somewhere in the zone where those guys are open and he's got some great receivers. Do you bring more pressure and make him get the ball out of his hand quicker? Obviously, that's something to look at, particularly when he throw it 60 times."
It wasn't like the Cards didn't know Virginia was going to pass -- the Wahoos don't have a running attack, and they proved it by managing only 35 yards on 25 rushing plays.
"It was a little bit of everything," Satterfield said of Armstrong's performance. "I think there were times he squeezed the ball into windows and made those throws. I think there were times we had guys on their back and they made the catch, and there were other times when they were sitting in the zone open, he did a good job of finding those guys. We've got to make it harder on guys to make those plays."
A bright spot for Louisville was the running of junior Hassan Hall.
Bothered by shoulder and ankle injuries, he hadn't carried the ball since the second game of the season against Eastern Kentucky and had never rushed for more than 100 yards in 39 games. He got only one chance in the first half Saturday, gaining two yards. But in the second half he ran like he had stored up all his energy to cut it loose on Virginia, punishing the Cavs for 162 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
"It just kind of happened that I got my shot," he said.
Satterfield pointed to UofL's next-to-last possession as the pivotal point in the game, following Hall's 53-yard run. That put the ball on Virginia's 27-yard line, but UofL had to settle for Turner's 40-yard field goal and a 33-27 lead that left the Cavaliers just enough room to pull out the victory.
"We needed to get it done offensively with a touchdown; it would have been huge at that point of the game," Satterfield said. "We didn't get it done and ended up giving the ball back to them and obviously you know what happened. But you've got to grab that 'mo' (momentum) somehwere and I thought Hassan's long run, hey we're back in it. That was disappointing we didn't get one more first down that could have iced the game. But we had to kick a field goal there."
The visitors took over on their own 25-yard line with 2:22 on the clock and Armstrong moved them steadily downfield, converting a 4th-and-8 from the UofL 38 along the way and an 18-yard completion that put the ball on the one to set up Misch's decisive TD.
"There are a bunch of plays you can look back on and we would have liked to have played better. There are a lot of different scenarios. They ended up with 86 snaps and we had 62; that's a big difference there. These games are crazy coming down to the end like they are. We've got to find a way to make one more play. And that's again what it was tonight, very similar to last week. Two in a row like that, it hurts. Two plays in both of those games and you're sitting there at 5-1. But there's a lot of ball left to play, a lot of fight in front of us. We know this league's very balanced."
Virginia's comeback started on its first drive of the fourth quarter, with Armstrong throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Thompson. He followed with a 3-yarder to Jelani Woods to pull the Cavs to within 30-27 at the 7:49 mark to set the stage for the dramatic finish.
This was nothing new for Virginia, which had escaped with a similar win the previous week when Miami missed a 33-yard field goal at the end.
"After two interceptions (by UofL), it takes lots of resilience, lots of character and lots of belief to bounce back like that in the same game. That's pretty special," Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "Our team and their team, great football. Coach Satterfield and his staff prepared their team really well, we did too, and a couple inches decides it. That's ACC football. My heart goes out to their team, and I'm so proud of my team."
The Cards will now get a chance to regroup and heal some of their injuries with a bye week before hosting Boston College on Oct. 23.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.