The Keg of Nails is a beautiful work of art. Look at the picture above. What hasn't always been so beautiful have been the games between the Louisville Cardinals and Cincinnati Bearcats. Finding memorable games that showcased high skill and back and forth action have become somewhat of a common place the past few seasons. We saw some blowouts, a few of which made the list, in the mid 2000s
Honorable Mention: Cincinnati 10 Louisville 7. October 26, 1996.
This game has nothing memorable about in action, but it does in spirit. This was the renewal of the series, as both teams joined Conference USA. UC and Louisville played every year from 1966 to 1992, then stopped for some reason. They have played every year since, thus putting the Keg of Nails to work. The Lord's work.
Honorable Mention: Cincinnati 25 Louisville 16. October 15, 2011
Louisville opened the game with the first 6 points thanks to Chris Philpott's right leg. Cincinnati took the lead in the second quarter on a TD pass from Zach Collaros to DJ Woods. Louisville answered right back with a third Philpott field goal. The Cardinals took more momentum when Mike Evans picked off Collaros and went 63 yards for a score. Collaros ran for a TD in the middle of the 3rd quarter to get Cincinnati within 2. On the second Cincinnati play of the 4th quarter, Isaiah Pead broke off a 50 yard TD run up the middle. Louisville went for it on 4th and 3 with 3 minutes to go, but Teddy Bridgewater was incomplete. Pead ran for 40 yards to set up the icing field goal from Tony Miliano.
Last year's game was a solid affair, but it just wasn't memorable to crack the list. The Pead TD run was one of his defining moments, but the game itself wasn't great. Pead ran for 151 yards.
10) Louisville 62 Cincinnati 19. October 3, 1998.
This game is on here for the wrong memorable reasons. It was a good old fashion ass whooping. UC was 0-5, Louisville 2-2, but you wouldn't know it by the final. UC had the 110th of 112th ranked pass defense heading into this game. Chris Redman has the most passing yards in Louisville history, at least he did. Redman started things with a 35 yard TD pass. UC had a FG, UofL a TD run. The Bearcats had a tipped ball 61 yard bomb and a FG to cut it to 14-13. Louisville scored the last points for the first half on a short run. Then the second half started. Redman hit a 48 yard TD, 18 yard TD, 11 yard TD and ran one in from 5 yards out. Louisville's backup threw for a 15 yarder, and they added another run. UC scored very late on a 22 yard TD pass to save a slight bit of face. They went for 2, giving us the odd 19.
Cincinnati gave up a school record 742 yards, 460 of which were passing. That was also a school record. Chris Redman set the Louisville record with 431 yards. Louisville also had 18 penalties for 155 yards, which should have been some kind of record. This was the worst loss for UC since the 81-0 Penn State debacle.
9) Louisville 28 Cincinnati 13. October 27, 2001
This game is memorable to me because I was there. My whole family was there in fact. Since my parents and brother were born in Louisville, they were rooting for the Cards, even though they paid tuition at UC. I am the only member of my family not born in Louisville. True story. Boring story. The Bearcats had won 4 C-USA games in a row coming into the game with fellow undefeated Louisville. The Cards jumped out 14-0, but UC chipped away with a FG and a long TD pass by Gino Guidugli. UC cut it to 14-13, but a pick set up a TJ Patterson TD run. UC thought they had a chance to tie the score, but a TD was wiped out on a very bogus hold from what I remember. Louisville marched down the field and scored again on a short TD pass by Dave Ragone to ice it.
Reading the recap from the Enquirer, this was from the period of UC history where they were so close, but yet so far away. The program was so close to breaking to the next level, but couldn't get out of their own way. That was the main problem of the Minter era. Gino Guidugli was 19-46 in that game, Munchie numbers! Ouch. UC packed the house with 31,004 (the 4 was my family), which was the 4th largest crowd in Nippert at the time.
8) Cincinnati 41 Louisville 10. October 24, 2009.
This does seem like a random game to put on the list, but it's on here for one reason, it was the break out game for Zach Collaros. Zach ran his away into our hearts against USF, but against Louisville, he showed the goods. UC marched right down the field on their first possession, getting an Isaiah Pead TD. On their second go round, Collaros hit Armon Binns from 24. Collaros and Pead teamed up to make it 21-0 on a 15 yard pass. Louisville got a TD when Josh Chichester hauled in a 4 yard pass. Louisville got the first points of the second half, a FG, but soon got blown out of the water. Jake Rogers connected on a FG of his own, Collaros found Mardy Gilyard for a 31 yard score, then Pead broke a 67 yard TD run to put it out of reach. All 3 of those scores came within 4 minutes. Rogers added another FG for the final.
Zach Collaros was very special this game, going 15-17, 253, 3 TDs, 0 INTs. Isaiah Pead had only 6 carries, but 88 yards and 2 scores. It is the biggest Cincinnati win over Louisville since 1951. 35,099 packed Nippert, the largest crowd at the time.
7) Louisville 23 Cincinnati 17. October 14, 2006
Cincinnati was a big underdog heading into this game against the 5-0 Cardinals. The Bearcats strategy was to run the ball. Run they did. 52 times. They caught a break in the first quarter when Patrick Carter fumbled a punt return that would lead to a UC field goal. The Bearcats got another fumble, but missed a 37 yard FG. The Cardinals would answer with 3 to start the second quarter. UC put together a 17 play, 78 yard drive in 7:42 with just 4 complete passes. One of them was an 8 yard TD to Brent Celek. Louisville managed another FG, but got a fumble that led to a 1 yard TD pass by Brian Brohm. Louisville went quick strike to take a 10 point lead as Brohm hit Gary Barnidge for 59 and Anthony Allen ran in from 17. UC missed another FG and couldn't capitalize on an INT. Art Carmody hit another FG to put Louisville up 23-10. Dustin Grutza ripped off a huge 28 yard run to set up an 18 yard TD pass to cut the lead. UC got the ball back with 2:28 to go at the 8. Grutza made plays with his legs and arm to get to the 16. On 4th and 15, Grutza's pass for the end zone was batted down.
Cincinnati ran for 212 yards and held the ball 36:42. Despite that, they still gave up 429 yards of offense. Not cashing in on 3 turnovers is a killer. Cincinnati would rally back, only losing 1 game the rest of the way. Mark Dantonio left after this season, becoming the only coach in Cincinnati recent history to not beat Louisville.
6) Cincinnati 28 Louisville 20. November 14, 2008.
Mardy Gilyard started things off the right way by catching a screen, making a spin move, breaking some tackles and running for a 48 yard TD. Louisville answered with a TD late in the quarter to tie before going up 10-7. Jacob Ramsey scored from 1 yard out to put UC back up, but Victor Anderson scored to put Louisville on top 17-14 at halftime. Louisville added a FG to make the score 20-14. That's when Tony Pike hit Dominick Goodman for a 23 yard score to give UC the lead for good. Pike got knocked out of the game, allowing Dustin Grutza to make his return from a broken leg. Grutza marched UC down the field, but it was John Goebel who made the big plays. He busted a 37 yard run to the 6, then punched it in the next play. Louisville was running out of time so they went for it on 4th and inches. Hunter Cantwell was stuffed. Jake Rogers left the window open a crack by missing his 3rd FG of the game, but Louisville went incomplete 4 times for the Bearcats to win.
This was the first time in 6 years the Bearcats got to hoist the Keg. It was a huge stepping stone on their way to winning the Big East title. This was the following act to the West Virginia OT thriller.
5) Louisville 28 Cincinnati 24. October 13, 2007.
This was a tough loss for the Bearcats to take. Under the lights, the 6-0 Bearcats went down to the 3-3 Cardinals. UC was ranked 15th. It was the best start since 1954 for UC. UC led the nation in turnover margin, but coughed the ball up 4 times. UC scored first with a 24 yard TD pass to Dominick Goodman. Brian Brohm threw a 5 yard TD to match. Ben Mauk unmatched with a 5 yard TD to Bones Barnett. Brohm connected from 4 yards out to tie, followed by Mauk from 17 to Bones again for the lead. Brohm hit Patrick Carter to give us another tie. UC had the ball at the Louisville 46. On 4th and short, a sneak was stuffed. Brohm went deep to Harry Douglas down to the 3. Anthony Allen scored on the next play. UC drove back to settle for a FG after not punching it in from the 2. The Cards went high risk with a sneak from their 29, but converted. The Cards went for it later in the quarter at the UC 1. Brohm was stuffed on 3rd and 4th downs. A desperation drive with 36 seconds left ended when Mauk was picked.
UC fumbled twice inside the Louisville 20 to end drives. It's hard to gain 460 yards and lose, but that's the textbook way to do such a thing. Goodie had 141 yards on 10 catches. That's pretty good. UC would lose the next week, which would derail their Big East title hopes.
4) Cincinnati 24 Louisville 14. November 7, 2002.
The only thing stopping Louisville from beating Cincinnati 9 times in a row were the 2002 Bearcats. They went to Papa John's Stadium and beat the disappointing Cardinals. You can see that, probably should have deleted that line! The game was a disaster offensively in the first half. UC had 52 yards and 5 first downs. Despite 148 yards, Louisville only mustered a Henry Miller TD. Gino Guidugli started off 0-9. He bounced back to complete 9 of his last 14. Antwan Peek recovered a Ragone fumble and scored from 15. Broderick Clark took the ensuing kick 92 yards though. The Bearcats caught fire, driving 50 yards for a DeMarco McCleskey score. A 22 yard pass by Gino set up another 1 yard McCleskey run. UC ate 5 minutes off the clock before the icing FG.
Like I said, this game is really memorable because UC broke the Louisville streak. The Bearcats weren't great that season. That Louisville wasn't great. In fact, that Ragone team was a gigantic disappointment considering their preseason hype. But the Keg came back to Cincinnati. Which is all that matters.
3) Cincinnati 35 Louisville 27. October 15, 2010.
The 2010 contest was a fire fight. The Bearcats got the first strike, with a 47 yard TD to DJ Woods. Louisville answered with an Adam Froman pass to Josh Chichester. Collaros went back to the air, hitting Armon Binns for a 10 yard score. Louisville answered with this (run at 1:22):
I will never get tired of watching that. Louisville added on a FG and another Powell TD run to go up 24-14. The Bearcats got another TD pass to Binns, this time a 31 yard strike. The Bearcats scored the only TD of the 3rd quarter on a pass to DJ Woods from 14 yards out. Louisville pulled back within 1, but UC answered with a bomb to Binns from 62 yards out. Louisville moved to the 12 on their final drive. On 4th down, Froman's pass was broken up by Cam Cheatham to seal the UC win.
Zach Collaros and Armon Binns didn't have finer games than this. Collaros set his career high with 5 TDs. Binns had 175 yards and 3 TDs, also career bests. Part of the reason this game is so high, is because it happened last year. This is the most memorable list, not the greatest list.
2) Louisville 43 Cincinnati 40. November 28, 2003.
Louisville looked like they were going to walk right through the Bearcats after scoring 28 straight points after UC jumped out 7-0. Stefan LeFors had a 69 yard run, and former Bengal Brandon Johnson took a fumble 20 yards for a score in the snow. The Bearcats scored right before the half with a short TD run by Mike Daniels. UC stormed back in the 3rd quarter, with a pair of FGs and a 17 yard TD pass by Gino Guidugli, with a 2 point conversion. UC took the lead right away in the 4th quarter on a 38 yard field goal. Right away, Michael Bush took a fake reverse 81 yards to put Louisville out in front. UC got another 38 yard field goal by Chris Manfrediti. UC got the ball back and went 70 yards in 4 plays, capped by a Kyle Koester TD run. The 2 point conversion failed. 2:20 was on the clock when Louisville got the ball back. On 2nd and 10, LeFors avoided the rush and threw a bomb to an open JR Russell for a 54 yard score with 1:10 left. LeFors ran for the 2, putting UofL up by the final. Gino threw 3 incompletions on the final drive. UC went down in heartbreaking fashion.
Cincinnati outgained Louisville 536 to 526. The defense forced 4 Cardinal turnovers. In the end, it just wasn't good enough. Just wasn't good enough also describes the Rick Minter era. This was the last game he would coach for the Bearcats. Only 11,000+ were in the stands. A banner that read "Minter please step down," was present. Minter would get fired. Mark Dantonio took over. That leads us to #1.
1) Louisville 70 Cincinnati 7. November 27, 2004.
Ah yes, what can you say about this game? UC came in at 6-4, 5-2 in C-USA, Louisville at 8-1, 6-0. Before the game, the Bearcats decided it would be a great idea to jump on the Cardinal bird logo at midfield. I don't know why they thought such a thing would bring them a win. All it did was piss Louisville off. First play of the game, Bobby Petrino famously said "This play will score." The play was an Eric Shelton run up the middle for 80 yards. He was correct. The Bearcats stopped a couple of Cardinal drives, including a goal line stand, before it got out of hand. An INT led to a 43 yard TD, a punt was blocked for a TD. There was a 42 yard TD pass, 13 yard TD pass, fumble, 2 yard TD run and it's 42-0 at halftime. UofL turned off the scoring off for the offense for all intents and purposes. But they didn't stop scoring. UofL returned a punt for a TD and blocked another punt for a TD. The good news was that both Cincinnati kickoffs went for touchbacks. Butler Benton scored the lone UC TD. Yay, Butler Benton.
I believe Louisville ran for 700 yards, but the stats say 357, which is actually worse. Louisville hadn't hit 70 since 1955. UC had 33 yards passing. That's not sack yardage, that's actual passing yards. 8/27 for 33 yards. Colin Carrey was 4-13 for 18 yards and an INT, which was a lot better than George Murray II, who was 4-14 for 15 yards and an INT.
That's always the game I think of when I think of Louisville and Cincinnati. That's even despite Cincinnati winning 4 in a row. Since that's so negative, let's end it with a picture of Isaiah Pead doing a Keg stand last year.