LOUISVILLE — Louisville had lots of reasons to win Saturday, which it did — 24-17 over Memphis.
The Cardinals, in their home finale, won on Senior Day for the first time since 2007.
Now 10-1, they secured consecutive 10-win seasons.
What U of L didn't have to play for, at least realistically, was a BCS bowl berth.
The Cards, No. 21 in the BCS standings, have only the faintest heartbeat left, one that would require not one but two Central Florida losses.
"I am so happy for our team — the first time in school history that we've had back-to-back double-digit wins," Coach Charlie Strong said. "I know it wasn't pretty, but to just see our seniors go out on such an emotional day, and just to have them go out the right way — I wanted to make that happen for them. So much they've given this program, and now they have a chance to go to a fourth straight bowl game."
Louisville (6-1 AAC) did not include Teddy Bridgewater in Senior Day recognition. Speculation is that the junior will turn pro after this season, but afterward he declined to say what his plans are.
"I'm up here to talk about the team," he said. "Today is all about the seniors, so it's not about me."
Bridgewater finished 26 of 36 for 220 yards. Included was a 39-yard touchdown toss to DeVante Parker, his only reception of the day.
Damian Copeland caught seven passes for 55 yards. Dominique Brown ran 17 times for 54 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown.
Defense did the rest for U of L. Preston Brown led the surge with nine tackles, and opened the scoring when he returned a fumble 48 yards.
"I had a lot of emotions going through my mind," Brown said "My grandfather (John Brown) died this morning, so there were a lot of emotions on me. But it was great to get a touchdown for him. ... I don't know how it just rolled in my hands, and I just took off with it. It was a blessing."
That was the start of a 17-3 first half.
Parker did most of the work on his touchdown catch, taking a quick flip along the Memphis sideline and shaking free.
Dominique Brown's touchdown run came on the first drive of the second half, capping a 16-play, 75-yard possession that came in hurry-up fashion.
The Cards had tried the hurry-up late in the first half, with some success.
Copeland said his thought at intermission was "we need to keep using that, because you could tell Memphis wasn't prepared for us using that, and we were clicking."
"When we go up-tempo, I feel like nobody can stop us, honestly. We shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes but, for the most part, when we get that fast pace it gets us in a rhythm."
The rhythm petered out from there, though, and Memphis (3-7, 1-5) made things interesting with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
The first came on the first play of the quarter, a 4-yard keeper by quarterback Paxton Lynch.
After a U of L punt, the Tigers pulled to within 24-17 on a 6-yard pass from Lynch to Jesse Milleson with 6:07 left.
Louisville held the ball until 37 seconds remained, which was enough.
"Momentum swings happen and it's all about how you answer them, how you finish," Bridgewater said. "We were able to finish strong and got out of here today with the 'W'."
Louisville at Cincinnati
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5
No. 21 LOUISVILLE 24, MEMPHIS 17
Memphis 0 3 0 14 — 17
Louisville 7 10 7 0 — 24
First quarter: Lou—P.Brown 48 fumble return (Wallace kick), 4:56. Second quarter: Mem—FG Elliott 18, 6:54. Lou—Parker 39 pass from Bridgewater (Wallace kick), 5:13. Lou—FG Wallace 39, 1:11. Third quarter: Lou—Do.Brown 4 run (Wallace kick), 8:23. Fourth quarter: Mem—Lynch 4 run (Elliott kick), 14:55. Mem—Milleson 6 pass from Lynch (Elliott kick), 6:07. A—46,421.
RUSHING—Memphis, Hayes 22-86, Lynch 8-26, Malone 1-14, Dorceus 3-9, Craft 1-0. Louisville, Do.Brown 17-54, Perry 13-51, Bridgewater 10-17.
PASSING—Memphis, Lynch 11-23-1-144, Team 0-1-0-0. Louisville, Bridgewater 26-36-0-220.
RECEIVING—Memphis, Malone 3-81, Craft 3-12, Hayes 2-17, Craig 1-20, Frazier 1-8, Milleson 1-6. Louisville, Copeland 7-55, Harris 4-32, Do.Brown 4-25, Perry 3-14, R.Clark 3-11, Parker 1-39, Hubbell 1-16, Christian 1-13, Quick 1-9, E.Rogers 1-6.