LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Another week and another close outcome involving Virginia.
The Cavaliers (3-7, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost another tight game on Saturday, falling at Louisville 38-31. Four of Virginia's losses this year have come by seven or fewer points, including last week's 27-21 defeat at Miami. The Cavaliers' three wins have all come by six points.
"All of these close games boil down to just a few plays that go the other team's way," Virginia coach Mike London said. "I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of their effort, but things didn't go our way this afternoon."
The biggest of those plays was an Olamide Zaccheaus fumble on a fourth-quarter punt return. Louisville's James Quick plowed into Zaccheaus just as the ball arrived and the Cardinals recovered near the end zone.
"It was great job of hustling down the field," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said of Quick. "It was probably really close to whether that is a penalty or not a penalty."
London saw it differently.
"When you hit a defenseless player like that, you have to allow a guy the opportunity to catch a punt," London said. "It really is unfortunate for an event like that to change the course of a game."
Virginia had a chance for a late comeback despite trailing by two touchdowns with less than three minutes left. Matt Johns threw his fourth touchdown pass with 1:16 remaining to cut the lead to 7. The Cavaliers then recovered the onside kick but were flagged for illegal formation, allowing Louisville to run out the clock after the re-kick.
"They said one of our players was beyond five yards," London said of the rule requiring how close players must be to the ball on kickoffs. "I don't think I've ever seen that call."
The Cardinals (6-4, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) broke open a 24-24 tie with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Quick's forced fumble set up L.J. Scott's 1-yard score with 8:30 remaining.
Brandon Radcliff's 36-yard touchdown run capped a 96-yard drive with 2:57 left for a 38-24 lead.
The Cardinals' fourth straight win continues their turnaround following an 0-3 start and avenged last year's 23-21 loss in Charlottesville, a win that was Virginia's first against a ranked team in nearly three years.
Matt Johns completed 25 of 41 for 260 yards and four TDs. Canaan Severin caught eight passes for 116 yards and a career-high three TDs.
"To see some of the catches that he made today, (those) were just some phenomenal catches," London said of Severin.
Running back Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell caught nine passes for 89 yards and rushed 14 times for 40 yards.
The game was tied at 17 at halftime after Virginia's Ian Frye drilled a 46-yard field goal as the clock expired.
Louisville scored on the opening drive after halftime on a 9-yard Radcliff run. Virginia linebacker Zach Bradshaw stripped Louisville quarterback Kyle Bolin and recovered a fumble near midfield early in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers capitalized four plays later as Johns' 23-yard pass to Severin tied the game at 24 with 10:14 remaining.
The Cavaliers have now lost 15 straight road games with their last win away from Scott Stadium coming in a 33-6 win at N.C. State on Nov. 3, 2012. Saturday marked the final road game this season as Virginia hosts Duke and Virginia Tech to finish the season.
"The seniors are finishing up their careers here in Scott Stadium," London said. "I just want to give them the opportunity to go out and be successful."