LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Blake Bortles and Central Florida had one last rally left, and it was enough to topple Teddy Bridgewater and No. 8 Louisville.
Bortles threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Godfrey with 23 seconds remaining and the Knights stunned the Cardinals with a 38-35 victory on Friday night, ending Louisville's perfect start.
"I said, 'Let's get some 2-minute calls ready," Bortles said. "We knew we were going to have to go 2-minute. ... Our offensive line did a great job and our receivers did a great job of getting yards after the catch."
Down 28-7 midway through the third quarter, the Knights (5-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) responded with three touchdowns in a 7:22 span. Storm Johnson had a 1-yard TD run and a 20-yard reception for another score, and William Stanback ran 12 yards for the tying TD.
UCF then went in front on Shawn Moffitt's 34-yard field goal with 7:36 remaining.
Louisville (6-1, 2-1) reclaimed the lead on Dominique Brown's 15-yard run with three minutes to go, but the Knights drove 75 yards in 11 plays to take the lead for good on Bortles' TD and then held off the Cardinals' comeback attempt.
Bridgewater made one last desperate heave into the end zone as time expired, but the Heisman Trophy contender was unable to find anyone. The Knights then rushed the field in jubilation as a small gathering of fans in one section chanted "UCF, UCF!"
"What can you say? It was a heck of a game," Knights coach George O'Leary said. "Both teams played their hearts out. That was a great drive and it was a great win in a tough environment.
"Obviously, it's a big win. It's a big win because of the conference. We had great effort and great execution. ... We could have hung our heads, but we got after it."
Bortles finished 21-of-32 passing for 250 yards and two touchdowns while Johnson rushed for 109 yards and a TD on 18 carries.