CINCINNATI (AP) — Teddy Bridgewater made several great escapes with the game on the line. Brendon Kay hobbled around on a bad ankle and matched him in the fourth-quarter cold. It went down to overtime for the second year in a row.
Some ending for this Ohio River rivalry.
Bridgewater rallied No. 19 Louisville in the fourth quarter, and Dominique Brown ran 2 yards for a touchdown in the first overtime Thursday night for a 31-24 victory over Cincinnati in the Cardinals' farewell to the American Athletic Conference.
"I told my mom that I wanted to cry, but tears of joy," Bridgewater said. "I'm so proud of this team. We have a lot of heart.
"Coach tells us all the time to ride the wave. We rode it. Then Cincinnati rode it for a while, but we knew we would ride it again and we did."
The comeback clinched the first AAC title for Central Florida, which had a one-game lead over Cincinnati (9-3, 6-2) heading into the final weekend. Louisville will play in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
"It was great to see this team finish the way they finished," coach Charlie Strong said. "You talk about a team with a lot of resiliency and a lot of heart. There were high expectations this season."
For the second year in a row, the Ohio River rivals went to overtime to decide who gets the Keg of Nails, this time for the foreseeable future with Louisville (11-7, 7-1) leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
The Cardinals won 34-31 in overtime in the rain in Louisville last season. This one went to overtime on a wet, raw night when Cincinnati's Tony Miliano kicked a 26-yard field goal with 7 seconds left.
An interference penalty in the end zone set up Brown's 2-yard run to open overtime.
The Bearcats got the ball and wound up with a fourth-and-14 at the 29, and Kay's pass went off the hands of Anthony McClung at the 6, ending Cincinnati's first overtime game at Nippert Stadium since 2003. The Bearcats could be headed to the Belk Bowl.
Bridgewater was 23 of 37 for 255 yards with three touchdowns, two of them in the fourth quarter. He eluded three tacklers for a 14-yard run on fourth-and-12 to keep one touchdown drive going, and finished it by scrambling away from defenders and throwing an off-balance pass for a 22-yard score.
"We're athletic at defensive end, and we were grabbing air a lot of times," Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We had him in our grasp. That fourth-down run, that was obviously the one that took the air out of our defense."