Cardinals See Plenty of Sizzle in Matchup with UC
During Monday’s media sessions with Louisville coaches and players, one of the most common questions centered on whether Cincinnati’s loss at Toledo last week took away any of the spotlight on this week’s game for the unbeaten Cardinals. Senior offensive lineman Alex Kupper made it clear that the Bearcats’ only defeat of the season won’t distract Louisville players from the job in front of them and the success Cincinnati has enjoyed recently against the Cardinals with four straight wins in the series.
“Sizzle? They’ve beaten us four years in a row, so that’s enough sizzle for me. It should be enough sizzle for all of us,” said Kupper when asked if Cincinnati’s loss last week at Toledo took some sizzle off this week’s matchup. “They have a lot of speed (on defense). The guys up front aren’t quite as big as the guys we just played (USF), but they’re a lot more mobile. We have to be a lot better in the run game, that’s for sure.”
Intensity, Energy Define Bearcats’ Defense
When the 14th-ranked Cardinals (7-0, 2-0) line up on offense against Cincinnati, they’ll do so against a defensive unit defined by its approach to the game. The Bearcats (6-1, 1-0) rank 20th in nationally in scoring defense giving up just 16.8 points per game and UC has allowed only one offensive touchdown to an opponent in the last 10 quarters. Senior middle linebacker and leading tackler Greg Blair, who has 54 tackles and two interceptions this season, sets the tone for Cincinnati.
“They play hard — really hard,” said Louisville sophomore offensive lineman Jake Smith. “There are always people flying to the ball. They just get after it on defense. They play with really high intensity and it’s going to be a challenge for us. It’s going to be fun. We have to match their intensity. We’re going to have the crowd behind us, so we’re going to have to feed off the crowd’s energy. Their defense is so good because they’re so intense and they play with so much energy.”
Louisville in Pursuit of a Complete Game
Despite its unbeaten record and the program’s best start to a season since 2006, Louisville players and coaches are quick to point out that the Cardinals have not played a complete game this season. U of L has been good enough to win each of its first seven games, but the goal for the Cardinals is to put everything together for four quarters.
“It all starts with us playing a complete game,” Kupper told reporters on Monday. “We still have yet to do that this season. We have to take it one week at a time and we have to be one week better than we were last week. It’s about focus. We’re still a young team top to bottom. In order to play at a high level, you have to stay focused the entire game. Here and there we can lose our focus and it shows in our play.”
Confidence, Execution Led to Winning Drive Last Week
With just three minutes left in the game last week against USF, the Cardinals were on the brink of their first loss of the season trailing 25-21. The Bulls had seized the momentum and the lead thanks to back-to-back fourth quarter touchdowns. With fear and anxiety filling Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium as the sun went down, sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s quiet confidence ruled the day as he led Louisville on an eight-play, 75-yard scoring march that culminated just 90 seconds after it began with his 11-yard touchdown pass to Eli Rogers. Accounting for 69 yards on the drive with his arm and legs, Bridgewater used the protection from his offensive line to lead the Cardinals on the dramatic game-winning drive.
“When USF scored, Teddy (Bridgewater) told me we were good,” Cardinals’ head coach Charlie Strong during his weekly press conference on Monday. “Coach (Dave) Borbely said if we protect the quarterback, Teddy will make the throws. If you protect Teddy, he has enough progression where he is down the field and he is always moving. Our offensive line did a great job on that drive and our receivers caught the ball.”