Dominique Brown's 15-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and Gerald Christian's 10-yard TD catch late in the fourth backed Louisville's big defensive performance that helped beat Miami 31-13 Monday night.
The victory provided a successful Atlantic Coast Conference debut for the Cardinals and to Bobby Petrino's second coaching stint at the school.
Despite the 18-point margin, Louisville didn't show quite the offensive efficiency they had hoped in Petrino's return as the Cardinals out-gained the Hurricanes 336-244 in a ragged game offensively for both teams. Louisville's new 3-4 defense provided the saving grace with three takeaways, including one that followed a costly fumble by Cardinals quarterback Will Gardner inside his 15.
After Louisville held Miami to a field goal following Gardner's second fumble in the third quarter, Brown's TD provided a 21-13 cushion. Christian's scoring pass from Gardner with 1:43 remaining sealed the win.
Corvin Lamb's 97-yard kickoff return for a TD just before halftime provided the go-ahead score for Louisville, which had to withstand several Miami threats from there for a win that wasn't decided until late.
Gerod Holliman's interception of Hurricanes freshman Brad Kaaya and 61-yard return to Miami's 36 as time expired punctuated Louisville's gutsy defense.
Brown finished with career bests of 33 carries for 143 yards. Gardner completed 20 of 28 passes for 206 yards with two TDs.
The atmosphere was charged from the moment Petrino led the "Cards March" into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in late afternoon.
Several hours later the Cardinals took the field under the lights in all-black uniforms with matching chrome helmets to thunderous cheers from a record crowd of 55,428, all but a few dressed in black.
Both teams provided additional drama as Louisville unveiled a new quarterback in Gardner, who was Teddy Bridgewater's backup last season. The Cardinals also broke in seven new starters along with an alignment that proved to be opportunistic.
Miami featured a newcomer at QB as well in Kaaya and welcomed back tailback Duke Johnson from a broken ankle. Some Hurricanes players also harbored hard feelings after last year's bowl humiliation.
All that excitement appeared to be a bit much for Louisville at the start as it went three-and-out on the game's first series without gaining a yard. The Cardinals settled down on their next possession to go 93 yards in 12 plays with a nice mix of running and passing that got Louisville to Miami's 2.
Gardner finished things from there with a 2-yard TD pass to wide-open freshman Charles Standberry.
Miami recovered from jitters as well to eventually take a 10-7 lead on Kaaya's 2-yard TD pass to Clive Walford and Matt Goudis' 24-yard field goal. Louisville reclaimed the momentum on the ensuing kickoff as Lamb dashed up the middle almost untouched for a 97-yard touchdown and the 14-10 lead.
The sequence marked the second swing in a weird first half in which Miami recovered a fumble by Gardner at the Louisville 5 before surrounding it on the next play as Cardinals linebacker Keith Kelsey grabbed Stacy Coley's fumble of Kaaya's backwards pass and raced to the end zone for an apparent touchdown.
Officials reviewed the play and awarded Louisville the ball but ruled the play dead at the 13. Gardner coughed up another ball deep in his own end early in the third quarter, but Louisville's defense held up again and limited the `Canes to another 24-yard field goal.