LOUISVILLE — Connecticut gained only three first downs after halftime, yet still left Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with its bowl hopes alive.
Behind a defense which physically whipped the Louisville offensive line and knocked quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out of the game twice, the Huskies upset the No. 20 Cardinals, 23-20, on Saturday when Chad Christen kicked a 30-yard field goal in the third overtime.
The result threw the Big East Conference into a jumbled mess.
Connecticut (5-6, 2-4 in the Big East) sacked Bridgewater and backup Will Stein five times, helping hold Louisville to 19 yards rushing.
The Cardinals (9-2, 4-2) entered the game averaging 33.3 points per game, but punted nine times and didn’t score until John Wallace kicked a 19-yard field goal with 11:40 left in regulation.
Bridgewater injured his left wrist when Sio Moore dumped him with a horsecollar tackle as time expired in the first half. After staying in the locker room for treatment, Bridgewater returned to the field in the third quarter to raucous applause from the crowd of 45,618.
The sophomore got back into the game with 4:55 left in the third quarter and forced overtime with a six-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker with 21 seconds remaining in regulation.
Bridgewater, who was helped off the field because of a leg injury during the first overtime, came back to extend the game to a third extra period with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Parker.
Bridgewater completed 30-of-53 passes for 331 yards, but made his one huge mistake when Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepted a pass intended for Parker on third down from the five-yard-line in the third overtime.
After Lyle McCombs ran three times for 12 yards, Christen kicked the game-winner.
The Huskies took a 10-0 lead to halftime.
Christen banked a 39-yard field goal off the right upright with 5:28 left in the first quarter and Matt Williams ran three around right end with 10:20 left in the half for the only touchdown until the wild ending.
McCombs rushed 29 times for 133 yards for UConn, making him the latest running back to gash a Cardinal run defense, which entered the game yielding 161 yards per game.
Despite the result, Louisville still can claim a share of the Big East title by winning Thursday night at Rutgers, which lost, 27-6, Saturday at Pittsburgh.
If the Cardinals win and Cincinnati prevails next Saturday at UConn, it will create a four-way tie for the championship with Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati and Syracuse.
NOTES: Louisville honored 13 seniors before the game, one of the smallest graduating classes in the FBS. Only five of them were on the field for the first snap. … Trevardo Williams of Connecticut, the Big East sack leader, sacked Teddy Bridgewater twice and backup Will Stein once. … Quarterback Chandler Whitmer of Connecticut was knocked out of the game because of an injury in the fourth quarter.