LOUISVILLE — With an inexperienced quarterback running the show and Donald Brown showing why he leads the nation in rushing, Connecticut scored the last 16 points to defeat Louisville 26-21 Friday night at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
The Cardinals were clinging to a 21-20 lead in the final three minutes when Lawrence Wilson intercepted a Hunter Cantwell pass at the U of L 45 and raced untouched to the end zone with 2:45 on the clock.
The Cardinals (2-2) got the ball twice more. They managed two first downs and got to the UConn 32. After a 3-yard gain, Cantwell threw three incompletions.
Connecticut was unable to get a first down, and Louisville took over at its 27 after a punt.
After his first pass was knocked down, Cantwell was intercepted by Robert Vaughn.
The Huskies were without quarterback Tyler Lorenzen, who left the game in the second quarter. Zach Frazer was unsteady when he took over, but he settled down and led the visitors' comeback.
Brown, the nation's leading runner, rushed for 190 yards on 33 carries. He was everything he was advertised to be when he finally got his chance.
A fumble recovery by UConn after a 29-yard catch and run by U of L's Doug Beaumont set up the visitors on their 38 with 11:55 to play in the first quarter. Brown ran 23 yards on the third play to the U of L 30.
The Huskies settled for a 47-yard field goal by Tony Ciaravino after three plays netted zero yards.
UConn went ahead 10-0 after Louisville lost the ball on downs at the Huskies 29.
Connecticut drove 71 yards in eight plays, including a 30-yard juke and dash by Brown to the U of L 3. He scored two plays later with 9:23 left in the first half.
Louisville responded with a Cantwell-led drive similar to the quick strikes by Brian Brohm, his predecessor.
Louisville ripped off first downs on the first four plays, starting with a 25-yard reception by Beaumont and a 17-yard catch by Maurice Clark.
The Cards stayed on the ground the rest of the drive. Victor Anderson ran for 12 yards, Brock Bolen for 11 and 3, then Anderson for 10 and the final 2 with 6:03 left in the half to make it 10-7.
Louisville took the lead 14-10, using all but six seconds of the last 3:33.
A 24-yard reception by Trent Guy was the long play, advancing U of L to the UConn 27. The catch was reviewed by a Big East official in the press box and the decision was upheld, although Guy appeared to be out of bounds.
The drive slowed until Anderson got loose on a draw play for 19 yards to the 10. He then ran to the 2, but Louisville was called for holding and was set back to the 18.
Anderson grabbed a Cantwell pass and ran through the Huskies defense to score with six seconds left in the half.
For the fifth time this season, Brown exceeded 100 yards in the first 30 minutes, gaining124 yards on 13 carries.
Cantwell had 210 passing yards, completing 14 of 17 passes. His long pass was 31 yards to Beaumont.
Anderson gained 53 yards on eight carries.
Connecticut lost Lorenzen to an ankle injury on the touchdown drive. He came out for the second half on crutches and in street clothes.
After forcing a punt, Louisville took a 21-10 lead by driving 55 yards in seven plays.
Bilal Powell was the star on this drive, bouncing off defenders and carrying a tackler at the end of a 23-yard gain to the UConn 12.
Powell then ran for 7 and 5 yards, putting the Cards ahead 21-10 five minutes into the second half.
Louisville seemed poised to put the game out of reach when Brown couldn't come up with an errant pitchout.
Louisville managed four yards on four plays and lost Cantwell with a sprained ankle.
Frazer, a sophomore, began to settle into a rhythm and led the Huskies on a 10-play drive that got them within 21-17.
Brown gained 19 yards on a third-and-3 call early in the drive. UConn converted on two more third-down plays.
On the second one, Darius Butler caught a scoring pass from 13 yards out when U of L's Woodny Tuenne went for an interception and missed.
After an exchange of possessions, Louisville again seemed poised to expand its lead despite taking over on its 2 where the Huskies downed a punt.
With Cantwell back at the controls, Powell burst free up the middle for 52 yards. After a near interception by UConn, Anderson gained 9 yards to the visitors' 36. But a false start and an incompletion forced U of L to punt.
The Huskies used a 15-play drive to get within one, 21-20, on Ciaravino's 29-yard field goal with 5:32 left.
Frazer completed four passes and Brown added to his yardage total on the march.
Connecticut had a first down on the U of L 7. Brown was stopped for no gain, and Frazer threw two incompletions around an illegal substitution penalty.
■ Huskies' quarterback Lorenzen had 222 rushing yards entering the U of L game. But he was last in Big East passing efficiency. He had six interceptions and one touchdown pass.
■ Missing in action for the Cards were receiver Scott Long and safety Richard Raglin. Offensive guard Mark Wetterer and offensive tackle George Bussey returned from the injured list.
■ Boos greeted the Huskies when they ran onto the field before the kickoff. Cardinals fans haven't forgotten the controversial punt return that helped UConn to a victory last year.