One of the best aspects of Louisville's tenure in the Big East has been the rivalry it's developed with West Virginia. The two had a history before, but nothing like what has evolved over the past seven years.
With the Mountaineers heading to the Big 12 next season and Louisville's future conference affiliation still up in the air, there is a legitimate possibility that this afternoon's game could be the last football/basketball meeting between the two programs in some time. With that in mind, let's take a quick look back at the most memorable moments in the rivalry since U of L came to the Big East in 2005.
10. 11/22/08: West Virginia 35, Louisville 21
AKA: "Pat White's Final Nightmare."
White rushed for 200 yards, broke the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback, and accounted for four total touchdowns - including runs of 66, 43 and 7 yards - while terrorizing Louisville for the final time.
White finished his college career with 1,115 yards of total offense -- 541 rushing, 574 passing -- and 12 total touchdowns in four games against the Cardinals.
"I guess I've been pretty successful against them, I've been fortunate," White said afterward.
On his final touchdown, White, whose breakout game came as a freshman against U of L, barked at Cardinal defenders and walked into the endzone shouting "catch me." It was also really cold.
9. 1/26/2011: Louisville 55, West Virginia 54
Peyton Siva's acrobatic lay-up with 4.5 seconds left brought Louisville all the way back from an 11-point second half deficit and gave the Cardinals a 55-54 victory over their rivals from Morgantown.
"That shot was ridiculous. It was crazy," Preston Knowles said afterward.
Chris Smith led Louisville with 15 points and Knowles added 10, but it was Louisville's defense that led the comeback.
The Mountaineers, playing without suspended leading scorer Casey Mitchell, made just two field goals over the final 15 minutes. Joe Mazzulla led West Virginia with a career-high 18 points, all in the first half. Despite their offensive woes, the Mountaineers had a chance to win it late. Jones hit a hook shot in the lane with 41 seconds left to give West Virginia the lead. Louisville's Terrence Jennings had a perfect chance to answer but rushed a wide-open layup. West Virginia's Darryl Bryant -- an 82 percent free throw shooter on the season -- missed two with 25 seconds left, giving Louisville one last opportunity.
8. 1/31/10: West Virginia 77, Louisville 74
The game that resulted in two officials being banned from the Big East Tournament six weeks later.
Here's my even-keeled(?) response in the minutes immediately following this travesty:
Louisville leads by a point with less than 25 seconds to play as Joe Mazzulla drives toward the basket. Mazzulla is accidentally tripped by Rock Buckles and the ball goes off of his head and out-of-bounds. No foul is called on Buckles, and the ball is awarded back to West Virginia.
Devin Ebanks sinks a jumper to put the Mountaineers up one.
On the other end, Reggie Delk attempts a three-pointer from the corner and is knocked to the ground. In a game where 46 fouls were called and the home team shot 35 free-throws, no whistle was blown. Delk's shot bounces off the rim and appears to be knocked out-of-bounds by West Virginia's Ebanks. The ball is not awarded to Louisville right away, however, because referee Mike Kitts was ducking to (apparently) avoid potentially being hit with the ball instead of watching the action of the floor, a move which goes against every training basketball officials on any level receive.
Instead of deferring to the possession arrow (which belonged to Louisville), the officials head to the scorer's table to review the play, blatantly disregarding the officials' rule book.
Section 3. Ball Touched Simultaneously/Officials’ Doubt
Art. 1. Play shall be resumed by use of the alternating-possession arrow when the ball goes out of bounds and:
a. Was last touched simultaneously by two opponents, both of whom are in bounds or out of bounds.
b. When the officials are in doubt as to who last touched the ball
The officials review the tape and somehow find conclusive evidence that the ball was last touched by a Louisville player. West Virginia makes two free-throws and the Cardinals miss a three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Another Louisville collapse in a game it desperately needed, another egregious error(s) by an officiating crew with the game on the line; it's all just a little too much to process right now.
One of the most upset I can ever remember being after a regular season game.
7. 3/5/2011: West Virginia 72, Louisville 70
Another one I'm still not ready to fully discuss.
Kevin Jones had a career-high 25 points and 16 rebounds and Truck Bryant sank two free throws with 1 second left to lift the Mountaineers to a stunning 72-70 win over No. 11 Louisville in their Big East regular-season finale for both teams last year.
In the final home game for John Flowers, Joe Mazzulla, Casey Mitchell, Cam Thoroughman and Jonnie West, it was the juniors—Jones and Bryant—who solidified Bob Huggins’ fourth consecutive 20-win season and the school’s seventh straight overall.
"It seems like every time we play Rick (Pitino) it is like this," Huggins said after the game.
Casey Mitchell, West Virginia’s leading scorer at 14.4 points per game off the bench, wasn’t a factor this time until making two 3-pointers 9 seconds apart to tie the game at 70-70 with 10 seconds left.
After Louisville's Preston Knowles missed a 3-point try, Bryant got the rebound, was fouled by Knowles and made the winning free throws.
"I was just shocked that he fouled me and he really did foul me," Bryant said. "I said to him, ‘What are you doing?’ This game was going to overtime and they still had a chance, but that foul was crazy. The end of this game was crazy."
6. 11/8/07: West Virginia 38, Louisville 31
A struggling 5-4 Cardinal team nearly went on the road and ruined the sixth-ranked Mountaineers' national title hopes, but Pat White rumbled 50 yards for the eventual game-winning touchdown with 1:36 to play.
The win was especially sweet for White, who claimed afterward that U of L linebacker Preston Smith spat in his face during the third quarter.
"The majority of their players are very classy," White said after the sixth-ranked Mountaineers (8-1, 3-1 Big East) prevailed, 38-31. "They have one player, [Smith], who I feel is very ignorant. Just that one individual, if you can call him that. Don't know his name, don't care to know his name, but I would like to see him again. He spit in my face, and I feel that's the worst thing, the worst type of disrespect you can do to anybody. Never in my life has anybody spit in my face."
The allegation led to subsequent denials by both Smith and Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe, the latter calling Smith's claim "total fiction."
5. 3/7/09: Louisville 62, West Virginia 59
One of the best sports days I can remember.
It was an unseasonably warm March day. I woke up around 9, went to the gas station to grab some beer, airheads and burgers, and then drove over to the Card Chronicle Compound to watch Gameday (which was in Morgantown) with friends.
The day started with a lively open thread for the Pitt/UConn game at noon. The Panther victory ensured that Louisville would be playing for an outright Big East title that evening. I was excited. Other people were excited as well.
We then grilled out, watched Kentucky lose to Florida (again) and prepped for the evening's events.
Despite a raucous crowd, Louisville held off the Mountaineers in the final minutes and claimed its first Big East title with a 62-59 win. Terrence Williams, in standard T-Will fashion, led the Cards in scoring (20), rebounding (6), assists (7), and steals (6).
The night ended with one of the greatest pictures ever taken:
Earl Clark, ladies and gentlemen.
4. 3/9/07: Louisville 82, West Virginia 71 (2OT)
After inexplicably not being paired against one another in the regular season, the Cards and 'Eers met in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament, presumably with West Virginia's NCAA Tournament fate on the line. Like so many others in this rivalry, the game was chock-full of controversy.
WVU used an 18-0 run in the second half to erase a 17-point deficit, and Darris Nichols' runner with 4.3 seconds left to make the score 58-56 looked for a moment like it might be the decisive basket. But then freshman point guard Edgar Sosa got the ball in his hands and went the length of the court to beat the buzzer with an overtime-inducing lay-up. Some Mountaineer fans said Sosa walked, others said that the clock didn't start when he touched the ball, but the play stood and the Cards ultimately prevailed two overtimes later.
Louisville would go onto earn a six seed in the NCAA Tournament while West Virginia was relegated to the NIT.
3. 11/5/11 Louisville 38, West Virginia 35
Andrew Johnson blowing kisses. Teddy Bridgewater officially becoming a star. CHARLIE STRONG CROWD SURFING IN THE LOCKER ROOM.
The defining day of the Strong era to date.
2. 10/15/05: West Virginia 46, Louisville 44 (3OT)
With Louisville having already suffered a stunning blowout loss at the hands of South Florida and West Virginia coming into the game unranked, the first gridiron meeting between these two as members of the Big East didn't have nearly the hype as most of the other games on this list, which is a shame since it very well may have been the most exciting.
Brian Brohm and Michael Bush helped Louisville to a 24-7 third quarter lead, causing some of the blue and gold faithful to head for the exits, a move they would eventually lament. Freshman quarterback Pat White took over for the injured Adam Bednarik in the fourth quarter, and he and fellow freshman running back Steve Slaton proved to be a duo the Cardinal defense had no answer for.
Slaton would finish the game with 188 yards rushing and a school-record six touchdowns, the last of which helped to put the Mountaineers up eight in the third overtime. After a Bush touchdown, safety Eric Wicks tackled a scrambling Brohm on the two-point conversion try to secure the victory.
Controversy, yet again, marred the aftermath of the game as Louisville backers claimed West Virginia had utilized an illegal onside kick following a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Big East acknowledged that an error had been made and issued a formal apology two days later.
The Mountaineers would not lose the rest of the season, and capped the year off with an upset win over SEC champion Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals would win their five remaining regular season games, but fall to Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl.
1. 11/2/06: Louisville 44, West Virginia 34
Designated as the Big East's "End Game" since early that summer, West Virginia and Louisville entered this Thursday night clash with equal records, top five rankings, and national title aspirations. With No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan set to play each other in three weeks, the popular opinion became that whoever prevailed inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium would be four wins away from a birth in the national championship game.
The build-up during game week was like none other the Derby City had ever seen. Fans dressed in black and arrived at the stadium to tailgate/mentally prepare in the wee hours of the afternoon. They would not be disappointed.
In the game he'd been playing in his mind since he was a child, Brian Brohm was sensational, connecting on 19-of-26 passes for 354 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals also used a Malik Jackson fumble return for a touchdown and a Trent Guy punt return for a score to capture arguably the biggest victory in program history.
Louisville's national title hopes were crushed one week later when they lost a 28-25 contest at Rutgers. Still, the memory of a sea of black swarming midfield with fireworks exploding in the background will live forever in the hearts of Cardinal fans and the minds of Mountaineer fans.