Louisville's Donovan gets redemption in a snap
Louisville long snapper Grant Donovan might owe Cincinnati coach Butch Jones a debt he never will be able to repay.
When the teams met Friday night in a showdown of undefeated teams, the outcome hinged on a 30-yard field goal attempt by John Wallace in overtime.
Prior to the kick, Jones repeated what almost every coach does in that situation — he called a timeout to throw off Wallace's focus and timing.
But Jones' ploy backfired.
Donovan's snap sailed over holder Will Stein's head, a mistake that would have sent the game into a second overtime. But Jones' timeout gave Louisville another chance.
Donovan said he heard the whistle for the timeout and relaxed, leading to the bad snap. Stein isn't so sure.
“What he heard was his heart pounding a little bit,” Stein said, smiling. “So was mine.”
Stein said he wasn't expecting a timeout. “But he called it. Thankfully, he did, and we got another chance.”
Wallace kicked the game-winner to give No. 12 Louisville (8-0, 3-0 in the Big East) a 34-31 victory over Cincinnati (5-2, 1-1) and the Keg of Nails trophy that annually goes to the winner. It broke Cincinnati's four-year winning streak in the series.
Does it really work?
Reporters asked Wallace if the so-called “icing” of the kicker actually hurts his concentration.
“I would rather be iced,” said Wallace, who has tried (eight) and converted (seven), the fewest number of field goal attempts in the Big East this season. “It gives me more time to plan the kick and judge the wind and the rain.”
Lighting a fire?
Louisville coach Charlie Strong was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct in the second quarter when he feverishly argued a touchback call on a Cardinals punt.
Strong said Monday the call was correct, but he argued just to give his team a spark. Louisville was trailing, 10-7, at the time.
“It was the right call, and I knew it at the time,” he said. “I just needed to get a little steam for our defense and get our team going.”
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood isn't worried about what throwing six interceptions in the 35-23 loss to Kent State will do to quarterback Gary Nova's confidence.
“I don't have any doubt Gary will be better for this experience,” Flood said. “It's important when somebody establishes themselves as a starter they have a chance to learn. Sometimes, those learning experiences come in losses.”
The six interceptions tied a Big East record set by Rutgers and Temple in 1992 and tied by Rutgers in 1998.
The game also marked the second consecutive week that a Mid-American Conference team defeated an unbeaten Big East team. Toledo beat Cincinnati the previous week.
Kent State (7-1) had been 0-22 against ranked teams, and the loss dropped Rutgers (7-1, 4-0) out of The Associated Press poll.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997.