This is a collection of games where a team coached by Charlie Strong ran out to a big lead, then came unraveled and unfocused and let the other team back in the game. It is presented without comment. And really, if we wanted to include games where his teams let an inferior opponent hang around for most or all of the game, this list would be quite a bit longer.
- September 11, 2010: Louisville 23, Eastern Kentucky 13. The Cardinals led 23-0 at halftime, but only managed 98 yards after halftime (and only 13 yards in the fourth quarter) against their FCS opponent. Adam Froman threw a pick-six to get the Colonels on the board, and they scored another TD with around two minutes left. Then they recovered an onside kick, but an interception ended their chances.
- October 2, 2010: Louisville 34, Arkansas State 24. After running out to a 31-7 halftime lead and gaining almost 400 yards of offense, the Cardinals struggled to finish the job. The Red Wolves scored two touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half. After Froman was sacked and fumbled the ball away, the Red Wolves kicked a field goal to cut Louisville’s lead to 31-24. Finally the Cardinals put together a scoring drive, with Josh Philpott’s 46-yard field goal icing the game.
- September 15, 2012: Louisville 39, North Carolina 34. The most glaring example of letting off the gas too early. Louisville demolished the Tar Heels in the first half. Just demolished them. The Cards scored on their first six possessions and led 36-7 at halftime. They put together two more good drives, one which ended on a failed fourth-down conversion, and one with a field goal. Then they stopped playing completely. Up 39-14 early in the fourth quarter, they let UNC score three straight touchdowns to cut the lead to five. After the Tar Heels recovered an onside kick, they drove down inside the Louisville 5 and nearly took the lead, but Bryn Renner’s pass on fourth and goal was broken up.
- January 2, 2013: Louisville 33, Florida 23. The Sugar Bowl where the Cardinals hammered the Gators. This one isn’t as bad as the others, but they did give up a kickoff return for a touchdown and a 97-yard TD drive in the fourth quarter after going up 33-10. The defense recovered to stop Florida’s two-point conversion attempt, then recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.
- October 18, 2013: C. 38, Louisville 35. A game where Louisville messed around so much they blew the game, and the conference title along with it. The Cardinals had a 28-7 lead in the third quarter, but gave up 31 points on the Knights’ last five possessions. Louisville had a fumble and two punts, followed by a touchdown that briefly gave them back the lead at 35-31. Blake Bortles then drove the Knights down the field for the winning touchdown with 22 seconds left. Instead of going 12-0 and playing in a BCS game and having an outside argument at the championship game, Louisville ended up in the Russell Athletic Bowl while C. went to the Fiesta Bowl.
- November 23, 2013: Louisville 24, Memphis 17. The Cards were up 24-3 near the end of the third quarter. Paxton Lynch scrambled into the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Tigers got the ball back and Lynch threw a touchdown pass to Jesse Milleson to cut Louisville’s lead to 24-17 with six minutes left. Memphis was set to get the ball back and have a chance to tie the game, but Reggis Ball committed a roughing the punter penalty. It cost the Tigers 15 yards, all their timeouts, and nearly all of the clock.
- December 5, 2015: Texas 23, Baylor 17. This was the game where the Bears ran out of quarterbacks. Baylor started with their third-string QB, but he was knocked out of the game with a concussion and the Bears had to turn to receiver Lynx Hawthorne to try and run their offense. Texas took a 20-0 lead at halftime, and then got outgained 279-107 in the second half as Baylor went high school offense and scored on their first three possessions. The Longhorns kicked a field goal at the end of their only sustained drive of the second half. The Bears started driving again late and managed to convert a fourth down, but after crossing the line to gain, Johnny Jefferson fumbled and Poona Ford recovered. (Hawthorne’s arm was so weak, they had to let Jefferson try Baylor’s failed Hail Mary at the end of the game.)
- October 21, 2017: USF 34, Tulane 28. The Bulls jumped out to a 34-7 lead in the middle of the third quarter and after scoring on four straight possessions, they looked poised to blow the Green Wave out. But the defense let Tulane make big plays and allowed them back in the game, while Emilio Nadelman shanked a field goal and had another one blocked. USF recovered every Tulane onside kick and finally iced the game with a long run by Darius Tice.