Archive for August, 2012

August 31, 2012

Series History Notebook: The Governor’s Cup

Sunday’s matchup will be the 25th all-time on the gridiron between Louisville and Kentucky. The Cardinals regained possession of the Governor’s Cup and snapped a four-game losing skid in the series with last year’s 24-17 victory in Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Overall, Louisville trails 14-10 in the series, but the Cardinals are 10-8 since the two schools resumed playing in 1994.

  • Louisville is 3-4 all-time against UK at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium having dropped the last two home contests to the Wildcats. The Cardinals’ last home win in the series was a 59-28 victory in 2006.

  • In the last meeting between the two programs in PJCS, the Cardinals’ dropped a 23-16 decision in 2010 in the home debut of Strong. Under head coach Charlie Strong, Louisville is 1-1 against the Wildcats.

  • Louisville holds an 8-6 advantage when the game is played as the season-opener.

Memorable Moments in the Louisville-Kentucky Series

  • U of L 24, UK 17 (9/17/2011 – Commonwealth Stadium): Teddy Bridgewater threw two touchdown passes to lead the Cardinals to a victory that ended a four-game losing streak in the annual showdown. It was the first win over the Wildcats for Charlie Strong as the head coach of Louisville and it was the Cardinals’ seventh win at Commonwealth Stadium.

  • U of L 59, UK 28 (9/3/2006 – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium): Louisville scored on five of its first six possessions to take a commanding 31-0 lead on its way to a dominating season-opening win. In his final game as a Cardinal, Michael Bush ran for 128 yards and three scores before suffering a season-ending injury early in the third quarter. In a season which capped with a BIG EAST title and a win in the Orange Bowl, the Cardinals used the rivalry game as a springboard into the national spotlight.

  • U of L 36, UK 10 (9/1/2001 – Commonwealth Stadium): Dave Ragone threw for 368 yards and three touchdowns to lead Louisville to its largest margin of victory ever over the Wildcats in Lexington. Ragone completed 21 of 34 passes, including a career-best 82-yard strike to Zek Parker on the third play of the game, as the Cardinals beat UK for the third straight year.

  • U of L 40, UK 34 – OT (9/2/2000 – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium): Tony Stallings’ burst up the middle on Louisville’s first play of overtime gave the Cardinals a dramatic win in what remains the only game in Governor’s Cup history to continue into overtime. After Anthony Floyd intercepted Jared Lorenzen’s pass on the first possession of overtime, Stallings then dashed 25 yards untouched on the next play for the winning score, unleashing a wild celebration.

  • U of L 13, UK 10 (9/2/1995 – Commonwealth Stadium): Calvin Arrington’s one-yard touchdown run with 1:29 remaining provided the winning margin as the Cardinals won in Commonwealth Stadium for the first time. Arrington finished the day with 133 yards rushing on 37 carries and added 37 receiving yards on six catches.

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August 30, 2012

Matchup Spotlight: Louisville Defense vs. Kentucky Offense

Video Interviews: Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford | Preston Brown | Brandon Dunn

Despite returning 10 starters from last year’s squad, the No. 25 Cardinals remain a young group defensively entering Sunday’s season-opener and Governor’s Cup showdown with Kentucky. One of the deepest and most experienced areas of head coach Charlie Strong’s defense should be the defensive line, which is anchored by junior tackle Brandon Dunn. He is joined on the depth chart by junior tackle Roy Philon, junior end Marcus Smith and sophomore end B.J. Dubose.

“Our strength should be up front,” said Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, now in his third season on the job. “We have a lot of depth up front for the first time since we’ve been here. We’re looking for those guys to step up and make some plays. We’re bigger, we’re faster and we’re stronger. Hopefully, on game day, that shows, but we don’t know that yet because they’re still young.”

The Cardinals will face a less experienced offensive line for the Wildcats with only two returning starters. Leading the way up front for UK are senior guard Larry Warford, a two-time All-SEC selection, and two-year starting center Matt Smith.

“We treat every offensive line the same,” said Dunn, a Louisville native who has started 12 games the last two seasons. “We give them respect. We know we have to go out there and execute.”

Despite a lot of new faces on offense, the Wildcats have the attention of the Louisville players and coaches. One of the biggest concerns for the Cardinals is who they’ll see under center for Kentucky when the game begins. And how many different players will take snaps at quarterback throughout the afternoon.

“You don’t know what you’re opponent is going to do,” said Bedford. “They could play three quarterbacks. (Morgan) Newton was hurt during spring camp, but now he’s back. You have to prepare for three quarterbacks and that makes it difficult. You have to work on everything. You must have two game plans. Once you know who the quarterback is, then you implement that game plan and let the players go work for you.”

Another key element in Sunday’s game will be managing not only the emotions of a season-opener, but the increased emotions of a rivalry game. In any intense rivalry, the coaches work a delicate balance to be certain players can play both fast and smart.

“In any ballgame, the first five minutes are all about emotion,” Bedford said. “After that, it’s time to settle down and go play football.”

With so many variables in play for the season-opener, the players, coaches and fans should learn a lot about each squad by the time the final horn sounds at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The goal for the Louisville defense is not only to win the game, but to establish more leadership and experience within the talented group.

“We’re still looking to find out what we are on defense. We’re young, but we have young guys with talent,” Bedford said. “We’re going to play extremely hard. We’re looking for leadership. We only have two seniors starting on defense right now and we have to count on those guys to step to the forefront, take these young guys and get them going in the right direction.”

August 29, 2012

Matchup Spotlight: Louisville Offense vs. Kentucky Defense

Video Interviews: Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson | RB Coach Kenny Carter | Teddy Bridgewater

When Louisville has the football on offense in Sunday’s season-opener, the 25th-ranked Cardinals will have the services of eight returning starters, including sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as well as a full complement of experienced blockers up front. On the other side of the ball, Kentucky returns five defensive starters, led by linemen Collins Ukwu, Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble. U of L enters the final stages of preparation ready for to kick things off.

“I feel like we’ve had a good camp and the guys picked up this fall where they left off in the spring,” said Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. “We want to play clean football and we’re not there yet, so we have a lot of things we must continue to work for. We won’t be a finished product until the last game, but we are getting better every day.”

Offensive success for the Cardinals will start up front in the trenches as senior center Mario Benavides leads a talented unit that includes tackles Alex Kupper and Jamon Brown and guards John Miller and Jake Smith. Despite having three sophomores in that group, every player earned multiple starts last season and the unit is much more experienced than the eligibility would suggest. The key for the group will be handling the pursuit up front of the Wildcats’ experienced trio of linemen.

“Well, you look at Collins (Ukwu), who is an outstanding rusher, and (Donte) Rump and Mister Cobble in the middle. You are looking at two big guys you are going to have to move,” said Cardinals’ head coach Charlie strong. “We are going to want to run the football, so it is going to be our concern to move those guys out of the way and run the ball. If you are strong enough up front, which Kentucky is this year, it (UK) can create issues.”

If the Cardinals can win the battle up front, they have a wealth of talented skilled players to use while challenging the Kentucky defense. Bridgewater, who threw two touchdown passes in last year’s win at UK, is joined by a trio of athletic running backs in Jeremy Wright, Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry. U of L also has numerous options on the outside in receivers DeVante Parker, Scott Radcliff, Charles Gaines, Eli Rogers and Damian Copeland, as well as tight ends Nate Nord and Ryan Hubbell. Those weapons should help Louisville find success with a balanced attack.

“At running back, all three guys have done a great job (in the preseason),” said Watson. “It’s a tight battle (for No.1 on the depth chart) and it’s a good one. All three can play and all three will run the ball. The receivers are another talented group and they’re very experienced. They have a lot of speed and a lot of size. They can be explosive when they touch the football, so we’re blessed to have a really good group. Probably the best thing that’s happened to us is how our tight end position has developed. The development of Nate Nord and Ryan Hubbell has really helped our personnel groups and multiplicity.”

Kentucky returns the services of starting defensive backs Martavius Neloms and Mikie Benton, but they are joined by a relatively inexperienced group of players in the Wildcats’ back seven defensively. Benton will anchor one safety spot, while Neloms moves from his starting safety role last year to a cornerback position in 2012. The linebackers are led by Alvin Dupree, the only player with starting experience after gaining starts in the final three games last season. Those two groups will face a test in handling the Cardinals’ running and passing games in the highly anticipated opener.

“I’m very excited for this university and this program,” said Bridgewater. “I’m excited for my teammates. We went through the off-season and this fall camp giving our all, so it’s going to pay off this weekend.”

August 28, 2012

Weekend Preview: Cardinals and Wildcats Meet for the Governor’s Cup

With great anticipation and high expectations, 25th-ranked Louisville opens the 2012 season on Sunday afternoon in the annual showdown for the Governor’s Cup against rival Kentucky.

The teams will kick off at 3:30 p.m., ET at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and in front of a national television audience on ESPN. After a win in last year’s game with the Wildcats and with the momentum of the program’s second BIG EAST title in 2011, the Cardinals have been tabbed by many as the favorites to not only win another BIG EAST title, but also retain possession of the Governor’s Cup.

“It does not matter what is said because you are able to go prove it on Sunday. We have tried to block the noise out,” said third year Louisville head coach Charlie Strong. “I don’t even talk about it. I don’t even bring it up. We want our players to understand that the battle is won on the field. It does not matter where people rank you.”

Overall, the Cardinals return 18 starters from last year’s squad, including 10 on defense and eight on offense. That Louisville squad halted a four-game losing streak to the Wildcats with a 24-17 win at Commonwealth Stadium. Sunday’s matchup will be the 25th meeting all-time between the two schools and one of the key battles is expected to be up front between the Cardinals’ offensive line and the Wildcats’ defensive front.

“We are going to want to run the football, so it is going to be our concern to move (the UK defensive front) out of the way and run the ball,” said Strong. “If you are strong enough up front, which Kentucky is this year, it (UK) can create issues.”

One of the anchors for the Cardinals’ offensive line in the battle up front is senior center Mario Benavides, who missed last year’s game with the Wildcats. His leadership and experience could be the key components to the level of success Louisville can experience offensively and as a team in 2012.

“Last year, that was kind of the missing piece for the first part of the season,” said fellow senior offensive lineman Alex Kupper. “Once we got him going and we all had a couple of games together, you could really see how the offense kind of took off. It should help a lot. He’s a guy who has played for numerous years and he has a lot of experience, so it should help.”

Despite the leadership of veterans like Benavides and Kupper, the Cardinals remain a very young team. With the overall youth of the squad, Strong and his staff are depending on some of the experienced underclassmen to take on more of a leadership role, which will be needed in a rivalry game like the one on Sunday.

“We are a young team and we have only 10 seniors,” Strong said. “The seniors are doing a better job with leading. You have a group of guys that are trying to lead. But, because we have so many young players, I tell guys like Teddy (Bridgewater) and Preston (Brown) to not be afraid to be afraid and step up and a voice on this football team. Right now, I told coaching staff to back away and see if someone will step up and lead this team. (Will) Stein does an unbelievable job with it.”

Game Information
Kentucky at #25 Louisville
When: Sept. 2, 2012 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (55,000) – Louisville, Ky.
Television: ESPN
Radio: 840 WHAS Radio
Series Record: UK leads 14-10
In Louisville: UK leads 6-3
Last Meeting: Louisville won 24-17 at Commonwealth Stadium in 2011

August 27, 2012

Monday Press Conference Notebook: Strong Previews Opener with UK

Premium Press Conference Videos from CardsTV: Head Coach Charlie Strong | OL Alex Kupper

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong kicked off game week with his customary Monday afternoon press conference at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex. Strong’s third season at the helm of the 25th-ranked Cardinals will begin on Sunday at 3:30 p.m., ET at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium against rival Kentucky in the annual Governor’s Cup showdown and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN.

The Cardinals begin their 94th season of college football in 2012. Louisville returns 18 starters from last year’s squad, including 10 on defense and eight on offense. U of L was 7-6 last year and won its second BIG EAST title. Last season, the Cardinals snapped a four-game losing skid to the Wildcats with a 24-17 victory at Commonwealth Stadium.

Quotes from Monday’s press conference

Strong sets the tone with his opening statement…
Charlie Strong: “From the beginning, one of our goals has been to improve each and every day. We don’t always accomplish this goal because our team is still learning how to work. They don’t understand that every second is very meaningful. What they have to realize and what we have to continue to teach them is that it’s all about hard work and team effort. We’re not a team that can turn the switch on and off. That switch has to always be on for us as a football team.”

“What this team has to do is block out the expectations and come to work each and every day. We’ve tried to manage that through the preseason. Preparation is going to be the key. It’s all about preparation and it’s all about that with the coaching staff. I tell our coaching staff ‘guys, this team is going to go as you go.’ If we prepare them every day with attention to the small details and the little things, this team has a chance to grow and develop. We have to get better each and every week.”

Three talented options for the Cardinals at running back…
CS: “Jeremy Wright, Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry are three solid running backs. Whoever wins that position is going to be an every down player. It’ll be someone that can run the ball — run behind his pads — and someone who can catch the football. We’re very fortunate to have three very good players at that position.”

Winning starts in the trenches…
CS: “In order for this football team to be a very competitive football, in the trenches is where it has to happen. On the offensive line, you look at (Alex) Kupper. You look at Mario Benavides. You look at (John) Miller. You look at Jamon Brown. You look at Jake smith. You have five players that are returning that have starts from last season. Then you also have some guys you can alternate in there to give us some help. With our offensive line, we feel really good about it. It’s a group that’s gelling and when that group gels for you, the whole team gels.”

Expectations are about finishing the job…
CS: “We have to continue to bring in guys with good character and guys that are responsible players. We have to take pride in this program. The expectations here are very high right now. We’re a preseason ranked football team and we haven’t talked about it. I don’t talk to our players about it because I want them to understand that you have to work. It doesn’t matter where you start. It’s going to be about where we finish. That’s why we have to finish every play.”

Playing fast and confident…
CS: “This game is a big game for us…a rivalry game. It’s going to be a good battle. It’s critical that we play hard. I want to see our team go play hard and everything else will take care of itself. We must go out there and play with confidence and compete. We have to give them a plan where our guys can run around and play fast and play with energy.”

Monday Notes

  • Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is back for 2012 after throwing for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns and is joined by the Cards’ top two receivers from last season, Eli Rogers and DeVante Parker.

  • Defensively, the Cardinals’ only loss was linebacker Dexter Heyman, while the Cardinals return All-BIG EAST performers Hakeem Smith (safety) and Adrian Bushell (cornerback).

  • Sunday’s game marks the 25th meeting all-time between Louisville and Kentucky. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 14-10, but the Cardinals are 10-8 since the two schools resumed playing in 1994.

  • Louisville boasts a 36-18 record against non-conference foes since the 2002 season.

  • The Cardinals were 4-0 last season when rushing for 140 yards or more and just 3-6 when running for fewer than 140 yards.

August 26, 2012

2012 Louisville Football Outlook: Special Teams

The Cardinals have been spoiled through the years with outstanding kickers in Nate Smith, Art Carmody and Chris Philpott. However, this year the Cardinals will break in a new kicker in redshirt freshman John Wallace. The product of Elizabethtown, Ky., has an enormous leg and needs to continue to build confidence. Sophomore Matthew Nakatani has been in the program and will get a chance to contribute this season.

Louisville also replaces both punters from a year ago, so it will have to rely on newcomers to carry the load. Sophomore Ryan Johnson handled the punting chores in the spring and did a good job, but will be pushed by incoming freshman Josh Appleby, one of the best punters coming out Georgia. The return game features some big-play potential in senior Adrian Bushell, and juniors Senorise Perry, Corvin Lamb and Jeremy Wright. Bushell averaged 30.7 yards a return last season, highlighted by a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown versus Connecticut. Perry averaged 26.2 yards a return last season and Wright went for a 23.6 average. He returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in 2010.

Position outlook courtesy of 2012 Louisville Football Media Guide

August 25, 2012

2012 Louisville Football Outlook: Secondary

The Cardinals return their entire secondary, which Strong hopes will be the strength of the defense. The headliner is first team All-BIG EAST cornerback Adrian Bushell, who registered 50 tackles and one interception. He is a true cover corner, who makes an immediate impact on the outcome of a game. Sophomore Terell Floyd is a physical cornerback who will be better after a year of playing time. He recorded 13 tackles from his cornerback position and on special teams.

Sophomore Andrew Johnson saw considerable action as a true freshman last season and will be the front runner at the other cornerback position. Johnson totaled 25 tackles last season and can be another impact performer. Redshirt freshman Charles Gaines is coming off shoulder surgery and was non-contact for the spring. However, the staff feels like Gaines can add depth and compete for a starting role. Junior Titus Teague is also a candidate for playing time and is a capable special teams player. Junior Hakeem Smith has earned BIG EAST honors the last two seasons, earning first team accolades last season. Smith was tied for second on the team in tackles with 84 and started all 13 games. He is a two-year starter at safety and could be in for a breakout season. Redshirt freshman Jermaine Reve is a player to watch and will see action in 2012.

Sophomore Calvin Pryor stepped in at free safety last season and was the starter for most of the year. Pryor collected 43 tackles and had two interceptions. He is a big hitter and continues to get better with each practice. Sophomore Kamal Hogan made the switch from running back to safety in the spring and showed promise. He will add depth to the position and will also be counted on to contribute on special teams. Freshman Gerod Holliman is another prospect with tons of potential, but missed all spring practice having shoulder surgery. He was a highly recruited prospect and will get on the field in 2012.

Position outlook courtesy of 2012 Louisville Football Media Guide

August 24, 2012

2012 Louisville Football Outlook: Linebackers

The Cardinals will be athletic at linebacker with three returnees coming back this season. Sophomore Deiontrez Mount played both defensive end and linebacker last season, but will settle into the strong side linebacker position. Mount is a great athlete and will be a bigger part of the defense. He totaled 10 tackles and registered 1.5 sacks.

Junior George Durant has improved and will also battle for playing time. Junior Preston Brown made a move to the middle after having a career year last season. He was tied for second on the team with 84 tackles and posted 1.5 sacks. He should be ready for a bigger season this year as he makes a position change. Sophomore Tyon Dixon had a good spring and is ready to provide depth in the middle.

At the weak side position, senior Daniel Brown is a playmaker and looks to rebound from a disappointing 2011 season. Brown recorded 39 tackles and one sack after tallying a career-best 55 in 2010. Freshman James Burgess is another incoming freshman who enrolled early and will make an impact immediately. True freshman Keith Brown was a steal out of the state of Florida and enrolled early. He showed good things this spring and is ready to compete for playing time. Junior Champ Lee has been in the program and is ready to add depth to this spot.

Position outlook courtesy of 2012 Louisville Football Media Guide

August 23, 2012

2012 Louisville Football Outlook: Defensive Line

One area on the team that that could be a concern is the defensive line, because the depth isn’t where this staff had hoped for in year three of the Charlie Strong era.

The Cardinals have great potential, but will be young in some spots at defensive tackle. Junior Roy Philon made big strides in production last season and could be even better this season. He sat out the spring with a back injury, but will be ready for the start of camp. He led the line with 36 tackles last year and posted 6.5 tackles for loss. Incoming freshman Pedro Sibiea is someone to watch when he arrives this summer. He is a big, physical performer who will be counted on to add depth. A pair of true freshmen will come in and add depth at that position. Pedro Sibiea from Homestead, Fla., and Sheldon Rankins from Covington, Ga., are the two candidates with great potential at the defensive tackle position. Both players have good size and will be counted on to help stabilize that position.

The Cardinals are solid at nose tackle with junior Brandon Dunn and sophomore Jamaine Brooks holding down the middle. Dunn is coming off a good spring, showing that he can create havoc in the middle and that he can be tough to block. Dunn registered 16 tackles last season. Brooks was a surprise last season and built upon that with a good spring. Brooks took over as the starter late in the season and registered 13 tackles and three tackles for loss. Incoming freshman DeAngelo Brown will also get a crack at earning playing time with a solid fall camp.

Position outlook courtesy of 2012 Louisville Football Media Guide

August 22, 2012

Dugans Looks to Smith to Lead Receivers

Video Interviews: Ron Dugans | Teddy Bridgewater | DeVante Parker

In last year’s win over Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, seven different Cardinals logged receptions. Gone is Josh Bellamy, Louisville’s leading receiver from that contest, as well as three others who made catches in the win.

One of the players returning from that group is senior Andrell Smith, who registered one catch – a touchdown – for 38 yards in the win over UK to help snap a four-game losing streak to the Wildcats. Smith, who checks in this season at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, ended last year with 11 catches for 207 yards, an average of 18.8 yards per catch. Wide receivers coach Ron Dugans says he thinks Smith is ready to take the next step in his career this year.

“I think he is,” wide receivers coach Ron Dugans said. “I think he’s focused more on his assignments. He knows that we need him to play some good football this year, his last year. He knows that he’s got to come out and show it on the football field. He knows it in the classroom, now he has to put it on the field and put his work on film.”

Two others who made plays in the Kentucky game and had star-studded freshman seasons in 2011 are local product DeVante Parker (18 receptions, 291 yards, six touchdowns) and Eli Rogers, who played high school ball at Northwestern with Teddy Bridgewater.

The connection between Bridgewater-Rogers is special, and while Rogers finished with an impressive 41 catches last season, Dugans knows there’s no limit to what those two can accomplish, and believes it can only help motivate the rest of the receiving corps.

“Early on, they had that connection,” Dugans said of the Rogers’ relationship with Bridgewater. “Those guys have been around each other for a while. Now, it’s more of the whole group – they feed off each and they feed off of Teddy. Other guys are making plays as well. Eli knows where Teddy wants him to be, so that’s why he’s been making the plays he’s been making.”