LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As the Louisville Cardinals took satisfaction in gutting out an important victory, a scary injury to an opposing player kept things in perspective.
Regaining focus after it happened might have been their biggest accomplishment.
Isaac Guerendo rushed for a 73-yard, go-ahead touchdown with 3:24 remaining and No. 11 Louisville rallied with 17 points in the fourth quarter to beat Virginia 31-24 on Thursday night.
Overshadowing the close outcome was a serious injury sustained by Virginia tailback Perris Jones late in the third quarter. Jones caught a 7-yard pass and fumbled after being hit on his helmet by Cardinals’ safety Cam’Ron Kelly and several other Cardinals. Malik Washington scooped up the ball near the right sideline and dashed down the field for the 42-yard go-ahead score to make 21-14 after trailing 14-0 at halftime.
L&N Stadium fell silent as Virginia medical personnel quickly rushed over with a flat board and a cart quickly entered the area. Players from both teams knelt and some Cavaliers prayed while Jones was treated. He was lifted onto the cart with his head area wrapped. Fans applauded as he was taken from the field to UofL Hospital for observation.
Virginia football spokesman Jim Daves said early Friday via text that Jones regained movement in all of his extremities and would remain hospitalized overnight. The player’s updated condition was also posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We are getting some encouraging news, but I don’t want say anything until we get it officially,” Virginia coach Tony Elliott said immediately following the game. “He is going to have an MRI.”
Said Kelly, “I’m just praying for him. I said my piece to him when he was on the stretcher. I’ve got nothing but love for him. I hope he has a speedy recovery.”
The subdued atmosphere soon charged up when play resumed as the Cardinals (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) rallied to tie the game at 24 with Brock Travelstead’s 35-yard field goal early in the fourth, followed by Jack Plummer’s 52-yard touchdown pass to wide-open Amari Huggins-Bruce with 6:20 left.
Virginia punted on the next possession and the Cardinals needed just one play to seize the lead for good as Guerendo quickly burst through a hole up the middle and rushed into the end zone, much to the delight of 44,628.
“Proud of our guys to hang in there when things were not going our way, play to the end and find a way to make enough big plays to win the game and get some stops at the end, you know, that’s really how football works,” Louisville coach Jeff Brohm said.
Guerendo carried six times for 94 yards. Jawhar Jordan had 95 yards on 17 attempts, including 42-yard burst that set up Louisville’s first score, a 4-yard toss from Plummer to Joey Gatewood. Plummer was 19 of 28 for 243 yards passing.
Louisville made it 14-0 as Jimmy Calloway caught the deflection in the end zone after D’Angelo Hutchinson’s blocked Daniel Sparks’ punt attempt.
The victory put Louisville closer to clinching a berth in the ACC championship game against No. 4 Florida State. The Cardinals need a North Carolina loss on Saturday to assure it. But it took overcoming a Virginia squad (2-8, 1-5) that shook off turnovers and a double-digit deficit to score 21 unanswered points in the third and lead 24-17 in the fourth.
Jack Griese’s 1-yard touchdown run, Kam Robinson’s 28-yard interception for a TD and Washington’s alert scoop-and-score positioned the Cavaliers for their second ranked upset this season. They had beaten No. 10 North Carolina 31-27 last month.
For a while, Virginia seemed on track to add another big win thanks to freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea, who started in place of injured Tony Muskett. Colandrea overcame four sacks and an interception to complete 20 of 31 passes for 314 yards and the 42-yard, go-ahead TD. He also rushed 14 times for 89 yards, helping the Cavaliers outgain the Cardinals 434-423 overall.
Louisville earned the yardage when it mattered, outgaining Virginia 187-133. Colandrea led the Cavaliers one final time and reached the Cardinals’ 45, but he was hurried by defensive end, Ashton Gillotte, and threw incomplete on fourth down.
The Cavaliers’ hearts and minds afterward were on Jones. Much like everybody else in the stadium.
“We wanted to do it for him,” Virginia bandit linebacker Chico Bennett said. ”... I told him, ‘We got it for you, we love you. We got this.’”
Louisville will at least stand pat in the Top 25 until the weekend games shake out.
Virginia: The Cavaliers couldn’t get out of their own way before Anthony Colandrea converted chunk plays with his arm and feet to get the Cavaliers into Louisville territory and eventually the lead. The Cavs remained fierce after Jones’ scary injury but couldn’t stop the speedy Cardinals.
Louisville: The Cardinals were ragged most of the night despite leading early and finally found their composure. Once again, they handed the ball to Guerendo, who added another big score after rushing for three last week against Virginia Tech.
Virginia: Hosts Duke on Saturday, Nov. 18.
Louisville: Visits Miami (Florida) on Saturday, Nov. 18.