Archive for October, 2012

October 31, 2012

Matchup Notebook: Louisville Offense vs. Temple Defense

Video Interviews: Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson | Mario Benavides | Teddy Bridgewater

Slow Start Last Week on Offense Can’t Become a Trend
In the Cardinals’ 34-31 win over rival Cincinnati last week, they finished the night with a season-high 524 yards of total offense, including a career-best 416 yards passing from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. However, those final numbers could have been even better were it not for a very slow start for the Louisville offense. The Cardinals managed just 111 yards on their first five possessions of the game and trailed 17-14 at halftime. Though they did respond to the struggles with a dramatic win, they know they must return to their trend of starting fast offensively entering this Saturday’s BIG EAST home game against Temple (noon ET, ABC).

“We didn’t exactly start that game as a ball of fire,” said Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. “I didn’t like our start and none of the players did either. The good thing is that through some adversity that we created on ourselves, we were able to fight back and we finished really strong. The kids played a really good game. We were physical in the run game. It was probably the third or fourth series when we really started playing. We can’t do that. We can’t start slow. We did not play our brand of football to start that game. Usually, we start fast and we didn’t. I think that had us reeling because of the way we started the game. Once we got on the same page with everybody, we took off. There was a little attention getting we had to do. We don’t want to have to go through that exercise again.”

Film Reveals Impressive Front Seven from Temple
The visiting Owls are led defensively by freshmen linebackers Tyler Matakevich and Nate D. Smith, the top two tacklers on the team. Matakevich leads Temple with 56 stops this season, including three for loss, while Smith is second on the team with 51 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. Despite struggling at times, the Owls have talented players surrounding both Matakevich and Smith on the defensive side of the ball and the game film has revealed more than enough proof for the Cardinals.

“Their front seven is very good,” said Louisville senior offensive lineman Mario Benavides. “They have four really big defensive linemen and they’re high motor guys. Nate Smith, the middle linebacker, is a really good player and he makes a lot of tackles. There’s definitely no over-looking them. As far as we go, we judge people based on film and we always go into the game respecting people. As for what Temple has shown us on film, they’ve shown us a lot.”

Offense Distracted by Improvement, Not Last Week’s Scores
Temple enters this week’s game following back-to-back BIG EAST losses to Rutgers and Pittsburgh where they allowed at least 35 points in each outing and surrendered a season-high 528 yards of total offense to the Panthers in last week’s 47-17 road defeat. Despite those results, the Cardinals say they are much more concerned with what they need to do better on offense than what the Owls have done recently on defense.

“We don’t look at scores. That’s just not our demeanor and that’s not our culture here,” said Watson. “We’re more concerned with us because our whole objective is for us to get better. In order for that to happen, there are plenty of things from the Cincinnati game that we have to fix. We just keep working. We don’t ever talk to the kids about schedule. We don’t ever talk to them about records. We don’t ever talk to them about the last game. Now, I’m sure their aware of those kinds of things, but honestly, we are more concerned with the way we coach our players and it being about us.”

Parker Translates Big Plays in Practice to Game Action
Louisville coaches were not surprised with sophomore receiver DeVante Parker’s breakout performance (4 catches, 120 yards, 2 touchdowns) in last week’s win over the Bearcats. Before scoring his 30-yard touchdown reception and his 64-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of last Friday’s triumph, the 6-3, 204-pound Parker had shown the same type of game-changing plays in practice and the UofL coaches knew it was simply a matter of time before it translated to a game.

“I think what you saw on (Friday) is what he’s been doing in practice,” said Watson. “He’s been delivering big plays in practice and he does it every day. There was a time there, for whatever the reason, where maybe he was in a little bit of a slump or trying to find himself. Players go through all kinds of emotions, but he ended up having two really good weeks of practice the last two weeks. You could sense that he was coming on and he looks very fresh. He’s running very fast. He’s put some real speed on film in practice and we just knew that he was poised to do something special. In our offense, all of those kids get targeted and he took advantage of his opportunities.”

October 30, 2012

Weekend Preview: No. 10 Cardinals Host Temple in Pursuit of 9-0

When 10th-ranked Louisville hosts Temple in Saturday’s BIG EAST Conference matchup at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (noon ET, ABC TV), history will be just one of the things at stake for the Cardinals. With a win, U of L will not only improve to 4-0 in league action for the first time since joining the BIG EAST, the Cardinals will also reach 9-0 for the first time in the history of the program, which dates back to 1912. Louisville also enters the game with its highest ranking since 2007 and one of just six unbeaten teams left in the nation. With the national spotlight getting brighter and school records on the line, Cardinals’ head coach Charlie Strong expects his squad to be focused solely on this week’s one-game season.

“You have to earn respect as you go along and you just look at what has happened within the program and you know how kids are, they just live in the now,” Strong told reporters on Monday afternoon. “The only thing they are thinking about is right here, right now, and lets go get this next game. What is really good about this team is we do not even talk about the record. They do not even say, ‘Hey, we are 8-0.’ It is all about the next opponent.”

Strong’s expectation was echoed by Louisville players on Monday, including senior offensive lineman Alex Kupper, who expects the Cardinals to continue the same approach that has helped them win their first eight games of 2012.

“Just focus one game at a time like we have been doing,” said Kupper. “You can’t look ahead to the games we haven’t had. We have Temple this week. That’s what we have to get in everybody’s mind. We have to focus on Temple and Temple only.”

The Owls (3-4, 2-2) are guided by head coach Steve Addazio, who is 12-8 overall in his second season at the helm. Addazio, who led Temple to its first bowl win since 1979 in earning a 37-15 victory over Wyoming in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl, coached alongside Strong from 2005-09 as assistant coaches at Florida and the two are very familiar with one another. Led by senior tailback and Boston College transfer Montel Harris, the Owls like to run the football and Strong says that approach begins with Addazio.

“That is his philosophy and it’s always been his philosophy,” Strong said of the Temple head coach. “Even when we were at Florida, he loved to run the football. They’re a very physical team. It’s all about toughness. They’re going to run the power, which is downhill football and running right at you. Their quarterback (Chris Coyer) is good enough where they can run the quarterback read play, which we’ve seen the last two weeks. He’s not the runner we’ve seen the last two weeks, but he’s good enough to read the end and either give the ball or keep it.”

Temple averages more than 161 yard per game on the ground, slightly better than the Cardinals’ 154 yards of rushing per outing. After starting the season in impressive fashion with its rushing attack, Louisville has not been nearly as efficient or effective on the ground recently. Last week, the Cards rushed for only 108 yards on 37 carries in the win over Cincinnati, while a week earlier in the win over USF, Louisville had just 128 yards on 33 rushes. Despite several injuries on the Cardinals’ offensive line during the last three weeks, Louisville players know the production from the rushing attack must improve and that begins up front.

“You look at the past couple of games and we really haven’t played well up front,” said Kupper. “You don’t want to make excuses, but injuries do linger around. It’s tough to play with guys banged up, but it is just something you have to do. Assignment wise, we’ve been pretty good. It’s just the technique and fundamental issues we have to get corrected.”

Game Information: Louisville (8-0, 3-0) vs. Temple (3-4, 2-2)
When: Nov. 3, 2012 – Noon ET
Where: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (55,000), Louisville, Ky.
TV: ABC Regional
Radio: The Louisville Sports Radio Network with Paul Rogers (p-x-p), Joe Tronzo (analyst) and Doug Ormay (sideline) calling the action
Series Record: Temple leads 3-2
In Louisville: Temple leads 2-1
Last Meeting: Louisville 62, Temple 0 – 2006 in Philadelphia, Pa.
Rankings: Louisville is ranked 10th in the latest BCS standings, 10th in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll and 12th in the latest AP Top 25; Temple is unranked.

October 29, 2012

Monday Press Conference Notebook

Press Conference Audio from CardsTV: Head Coach Charlie Strong | Deiontrez Mount | Alex Kupper

The 10th-ranked Cardinals will look to reach 9-0 for the first time in program history when they host Temple for a BIG EAST Conference matchup on Saturday at noon ET (ABC TV) at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Coming off an exciting 34-31 overtime victory against rival Cincinnati last weekend, Louisville (8-0, 3-0) is the only remaining unbeaten BIG EAST team and one of just six undefeated teams left in the nation. Temple, led by second year head coach Steve Addazio, is 3-4 overall and 2-2 in league action in its first season back in the BIG EAST following its previous stint from 1991-2004.

“I’m really excited about the game this week with Temple,” said Louisville head coach Charlie Strong during Monday’s weekly press conference. “I know Steve Addazio and we go way back to the University of Florida. He’s an outstanding coach and I know he’ll have his team prepared to play. It’s going to be a very physical game. Offensively, Temple will come at you with a lot of different formations and a lot of different personnel groupings. They do a really good job of running the ball with the back they have in Montel Harris, who transferred in from Boston College. He really runs behind his pads and does a good job of finding open creases and running through defenses.”

Last Friday’s win over the Bearcats took Louisville to 8-0 overall marking just the third time in school history and the first since 2006 the Cardinals have opened a season with eight straight wins. Despite the perfect start to 2012, the Cardinals’ primary goal is to remain focused on the job in front of them and continue their week-by-week approach. They also know their best football is still ahead of them with just four games left in the regular season.

“We know that we have to continue to improve with our fundamentals, our skills and our techniques,” Strong said. “We know we still have a long way to go as a football team. What’s really great is that we’re sitting here undefeated and we know that we can really improve. That’s the message to our football team each and every day. It’s still a one week season and Temple is our next game. We can’t worry about what’s out there. We know we still have four left to go play, but it’s really critical for us to improve and get better. I’d like to see us put together a 60-minute game. We haven’t been able to do that. We’ve played in spurts. I’d like to see us put together a complete game in offense, defense and in the kicking game.”

Resiliency Translates to Top 10 Ranking
With their unbeaten record, highlighted most recently by the exciting comeback win against Cincinnati in front of a national television audience, the Cardinals have risen into the top 10 in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings and are projected as a serious contender for a berth in a BCS bowl. Joining Alabama, Kansas State, Ohio State, Oregon and Notre Dame as the nation’s only remaining unbeaten teams, Strong credits the toughness and fight in his third Louisville squad as the reason for the program’s return to the top 10 for the first time since 2007.

“A lot of people had a chance to watch that game (against Cincinnati) and they saw a football team that is resilient,” said Strong. “They saw a football team that can come from behind and that plays hard. It’s good for our players. I tell them all the time that anything that happens with this football program is because of what you’ve done. The thing we can’t do is get caught up in the rankings and get caught up with where we’re at because we still have four games left to play. If we allow that to happen and we stub our toe, then there’s no telling where we’ll drop.”

Attacking the Key to Improving Kick Coverage
One area for the Cardinals the coaches would like to see improved is their kickoff coverage. Entering this week’s game, Louisville is allowing nearly 25 yards per kick return, while Cincinnati averaged 32 yards per return last week, including a 41-yarder. Strong says improved coverage on kickoffs begins with how players approach and attack the opposition.

“On the kickoff coverage, it’s about keeping the ball inside and in front of you,” Strong explained. “It doesn’t matter where the ball is kicked. It’s all about defeating the blocker and where the ball is. You always want to cross in the opposite direction of where someone is trying to block you. We haven’t done a good job with that. You can’t beat the block. You have to attack the blocker, shed the block and get across his face. That’s where we’re not doing a good job right now.”

Depth, Talent Creates Options on Offense
In Friday’s victory over UC, sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for a career best 416 yards and two touchdowns on 24 of 41 passing. Sophomore receiver DeVante Parker had the best game of his career with 120 yards on four catches, including both of Bridgewater’s scoring passes. Though Bridgewater and Parker got many of the headlines following the game, several players made key plays in the win revealing some of the impressive depth on the Cardinals’ offense.

“You look at DeVante (Parker), you look at (Damien) Copeland and you look at Andrell (Smith) — all of those guys are playing well,” said Strong. “It’s all about the first progression and the second progression. The thing DeVante did was he made the catch, he cut across the grain and he scored. You look at Copeland coming off the goal line and grabbing the catch that he made. We have enough play-makers where we just need to get the ball in their hands. You don’t really have to take one guy and say ‘hey, that’s our star guy,’ because we have enough guys around Teddy, even at the running back position where we have Senorise (Perry) and Jeremy Wright. They can catch the ball. You can throw the check down to Jeremy Wright and he can make a guy miss.”

October 28, 2012

Louisville 10th in USA Today Coaches’ Poll, 12th in AP Top 25

After regaining possession of the Keg of Nails with last Friday’s 34-31 overtime win against rival Cincinnati, unbeaten Louisville moved up four positions in both major national polls on Sunday rising to No. 10 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and to No. 12 in the Associated Press Top 25. Entering the 10th week of the season, the Cardinals are joined in the national rankings by BIG EAST Conference member Rutgers (No. 25 in USA Today/RV in AP), while Cincinnati is among the teams receiving votes outside the top 25 in the coaches’ poll.

Up next, Louisville (8-0, 3-0) will look for its first ever 9-0 start to a season when it hosts Temple in a BIG EAST Conference matchup on Saturday at noon ET at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The game will be televised regionally by ABC.

October 27, 2012

No. 14 Louisville Wins Overtime Thriller with Cincinnati

John Wallace kicked a 30-yard field goal in overtime to lift No. 14 Louisville to a 34-31 victory over Cincinnati on Friday night at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium after an attempt to ice the redshirt freshman kicker went horribly wrong for the Bearcats.

Cincinnati got the ball first in overtime but Terell Floyd intercepted Munchie Legaux’s floater in the end zone and the Cardinals drove 12 yards to set up Wallace’s kick. Bearcats coach Butch Jones called timeout right before the field-goal attempt, and the high snap went through the hands of holder Will Stein. After the timeout, Wallace calmly drilled the ball through the uprights on the next snap to give Louisville the win.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater connected with receiver DeVante Parker for two terrific touchdowns after the Cardinals (8-0, 3-0 BIG EAST) fell behind 24-14 with 10:26 left in the third quarter. Bridgewater completed 24 of 41 passes for 416 yards and the pair of touchdown strikes to Parker, who had four catches for 120 yards.

Defensively, linebackers Preston Brown and Keith Brown had 13 tackles each to set the pace. Preston Brown added one of the Cardinals’ season-high three interceptions, while Keith Brown had a team-high 11 solo stops.

With the win, Louisville stopped a four-game slide in the series against Cincinnati and captured the Keg of Nails trophy that goes to the winner of the rivalry. Up next, Louisville will host Temple in a BIG EAST Conference matchup at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 3 at noon ET and the game will be televised by ABC.

A complete recap of Friday’s win, with links to stats, notes, quotes, press conference video and photos, is available here at UofLsports.com.

Post-Game Notes

  • The Cardinals and Bearcats met for the 52nd time in series history. Cincinnati had won the last four meetings in the series and the last two at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The Cardinals’ victory over the Bearcats is the first since 2007.

  • The Cardinals are 8-0 for the first time since the 2006 season, when Louisville opened the year at 8-0 before falling to Rutgers. The Cardinals went on to finish 12-1, which included a 24-13 win over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.

  • Louisville has been victorious in five-straight home games, the longest home-winning streak under head coach Charlie Strong. The previous longest home winning streak came in 2006, when Louisville went 6-0 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

  • The Cardinals moved to 3-0 in BIG EAST play for the second time in school history and first since 2006, when the Cardinals opened league play at 3-0 before falling to Rutgers.

  • When scoring more than 20 points in a game under the direction of Charlie Strong, the Cardinals’ record is 21-4.

October 25, 2012

Series History Notebook: Louisville & Cincinnati

This week’s showdown for the Keg of Nails (Friday, 8 p.m., ET, ESPN) will be the 52nd meeting all-time between Louisville and Cincinnati with the Bearcats holding a 29-21-1 advantage overall. UC has won four straight in the series, including a 25-16 victory at Paul Brown Stadium last season. The rivalry between the Cardinals and Bearcats dates back to 1922 and ranks as the most-played series in Louisville’s previous 93 seasons of football.

The winner of Friday’s game gets the Keg of Nails, one of the most unique rivalry trophies in college football. The traveling trophy is a replica of a keg used to ship nails and is enhanced with the logos of each school and the scores of the series games. The football rivalry between Louisville and Cincinnati has spanned three conference affiliations (Missouri Valley Conference, Conference USA, BIG EAST Conference). Prior to the Bearcats’ current four-game winning streak, Louisville won five straight from 2003 to 2007.

  • Friday’s game marks the 17th consecutive season the two programs have met on the gridiron.

  • Louisville has not defeated Cincinnati at home since earning a 23-17 victory in 2006.

  • The Cardinals own a 4-3 all-time record over the Bearcats at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, but UC has a 13-10-1 record all-time against UofL in Louisville.

  • Louisville has not defeated Cincinnati since the Cardinals upset the 15th-ranked Bearcats 28-24 at Nippert Stadium in 2007.

Notable Louisville-Cincinnati Results

  • UC 25, UofL 16 – (10/15/2011 – Paul Brown Stadium): Isaiah Pead made two quick cutbacks and ran 50 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, rallying Cincinnati to a 25-16 victory over Louisville in the BIG EAST opener for both teams. The Bearcats overcame four fumbles, recovering all of them, and a costly interception thrown by Zach Collaros. Mike Evans returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown to give Louisville a 16-7 lead with 6 seconds left in the half. Collaros ran 1 yard for a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal, and Pead scored for the sixth straight game, sending Louisville to its third straight loss. Pead had 151 yards on 20 carries against the BIG EAST’s top defense.

  • UC 35, UofL 27 – (10/15/2010 – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium): Zach Collaros threw a career-high five touchdown passes – three to Armon Binns – and Cincinnati overcame the loss of another receiver, beating Louisville 35-27 in its BIG EAST opener. Binns’ 62-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter decided a game of try-to-top-this plays. He also scored on catches of 47 and 10 yards in the best game of his career. Collaros was 18 of 28 for 275 yards with a pair of interceptions. Bilal Powell ran for a career-high 209 yards and two touchdowns for Louisville.

  • UofL 28, UC 24 – (10/13/2007 – Nippert Stadium): Brian Brohm threw three touchdown passes and made a gutsy, game-turning 51-yard completion, rallying Louisville to a 28-24 victory over No. 15 Cincinnati. Brohm’s daring 51-yard completion to Harry Douglas set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, completing a comeback. Cincinnati led the nation in turnover margin, but got the worst of it. The Bearcats fumbled twice inside the Louisville 20-yard line, and one of the nation’s most porous defenses held them to a field goal after a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line in the fourth quarter.

  • UofL 23, UC 17 – (10/14/2006 – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium): Brian Brohm threw for 324 yards and a touchdown in his first game in nearly a month, but No. 7 Louisville had to hang on for a 23-17 victory over Cincinnati in the Cardinals’ BIG EAST opener. Brohm, back in the lineup after injuring his throwing hand in a win over Miami on Sept. 16, looked rusty at times as the nation’s top ranked offense struggled. Cincinnati held the Cardinals 21 points below their scoring average and had a chance for an upset in the final minutes. Dustin Grutza led Cincinnati to the Louisville 22-yard line with 9 seconds left, but his fourth-down pass to Earnest Jackson was broken up by Gavin Smart in the end zone to preserve the Cardinals’ 15th straight home win.

  • UofL 70, UC 7 – (11/27/2004 – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium): Montrell Jones caught two touchdown passes and returned a punt for a score, and No. 7 Louisville clinched its third Conference USA championship since 2000 with a 70-7 rout of Cincinnati. Brandon Johnson returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and Tiger Jones recovered another blocked punt in the end zone for Louisville, which reached 70 points for the first time since a 72-0 win over Wayne State in 1955. Eric Shelton rushed for 158 yards and Kolby Smith had three short touchdown runs.

October 24, 2012

Matchup Notebook: Louisville Defense vs. Cincinnati Offense

Video Interviews: Brandon Dunn | Preston Brown

Playing Together, Tracking Legaux the Challenge for Louisville
A big challenge awaits 14th-ranked Louisville on defense when rival Cincinnati arrives at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Friday night. The Bearcats rank 16th nationally in rushing offense averaging more than 225 yards on the ground per game and they rank 24th in the nation in scoring offense tallying nearly 35 points per outing. The key for the Cardinals in defending the explosive offensive attack from Cincinnati starts up front with how their defensive line and linebackers work together for 60 minutes.

“Nothing is easy and the front seven has to come to play as one,” said Louisville junior nose tackle Brandon Dunn following Tuesday’s practice. “We have to understand that we have to play as a unit. In the last game (against USF), we didn’t do that enough. We showed flashes of it, but we have to put a whole game together.”

The task of stopping Cincinnati is made tougher because of junior quarterback Munchie Legaux. The 6-5, 199-pound signal caller is completing more than 53 percent of his passes this season for an average of nearly 240 yards per game through the air, but he is also a threat on the ground averaging six yards per carry on his 44 attempts in 2012.

“He’s very athletic,” said Dunn. “They do the zone-read in the spread, so if he pulls it, we have to make sure we have a body on him — not just one but a couple of them. We have to get to the ball. He does a lot of things in the spread that can cause you problems. He can throw the deep ball and he spreads the ball out everywhere. He’s a well-balanced quarterback.”

Balanced Bearcats May Lean on Running Game
Surrounding Legaux is a group of talented play-makers led by senior running back George Winn. The 5-11, 202-pound Winn is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and more than 101 yards per game for the Bearcats’ potent running attack. In the passing game, Legaux’s top targets are seniors Kenbrell Thompkins (18 receptions, 276 yards, 1 TD) and Damon Julian (14 receptions, 243 yards, 3 TD). Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, the Cardinals will have a tough task on Friday.

“They have a good running back and some good receivers, so they have a core of good players,” said junior linebacker Preston Brown on Tuesday. “They can run the ball and they can swing it around with their receivers. They have a very balanced offense and they put up a lot of points. I think they’ll come in here and try to run the ball a lot, especially with happened last week. They probably saw some gaps where they think they can do the same thing (as USF).”

Friday Night Matchup Forces Shortened Week of Prep
This week’s game will provide the Cardinals’ with their first shortened week of practice thanks to the Friday night kickoff on national television (ESPN). With one less day of preparation, Louisville has condensed its normal game-week schedule by delaying the NCAA required off day from on-field work from Monday to Saturday. However, the lack of an off-day between last week’s win over USF and this week’s game against Cincinnati shouldn’t be an issue for the Louisville players.

“It’s a short week and we have to keep grinding through it,” said Dunn. “Everybody is excited and we’re giving everything we have on Friday because on Saturday, we get to relax a little bit. We believe (preseason) camp was the hardest thing we’ve ever been through, so a short week isn’t going to hurt us. It’s a quick switch in game-planning, but we know we have to come ready to play on Friday.”

Cards’ Cincinnati Native Ready for Rivalry Game
Preston Brown is a Cincinnati native having played prep football at Northwest High School, so this week’s game with his hometown Bearcats does have some added meaning. However, more important than where he’s from and how that relates to the game is the impact of playing another conference showdown against a long-time rival for his Cardinals.

“It’s not that much different. It’s just another game against a BIG EAST team and it’s a rival for Louisville, so that’s why it means more to us,” said Brown. “The rivalry feels bigger now, especially since we’re both undefeated in the conference. They’ve also beaten us the last couple of times, so we need to get this win.”

October 23, 2012

Matchup Notebook: Louisville Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense

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.”

October 22, 2012

Monday Press Conference Notebook

Press Conference Audio from CardsTV: Head Coach Charlie Strong

A very familiar foe returns to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Friday night when long-time rival Cincinnati visits 14th-ranked Louisville for the annual showdown for the Keg of Nails. In a battle of BIG EAST Conference leaders in front of a national television audience (ESPN, 8 p.m., ET), the Cardinals and Bearcats will meet for the 52nd time on the gridiron in a series that dates back to 1922. UC has gotten the best of the series recently winning four straight, including a 25-16 victory last season in Cincinnati.

“Cincinnati is a well-coached football team and Butch Jones has done a good job with them,” said Louisville head coach Charlie Strong. “It’s going to be an exciting match-up. It’s going to be another one-game season for us. The way we look at it, we are going to take it one game at a time, and Cincinnati is the next game. We have to improve on defense. We have to improve on offense and on special teams.

“Our team really respects Cincinnati. We haven’t beaten them in the last two years and they know who they really are, and it’s a respect factor within our football team.”

Louisville (7-0, 2-0 BIG EAST) and Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0) are joined by Rutgers (7-0, 4-0) as the only three BIG EAST schools without a loss in league play so far in 2012. The Cardinals are off to their best start since 2006, when they opened with eight straight wins en route to their first ever BIG EAST title, an Orange Bowl win and a 12-1 record overall. Though the Cardinals will take the same approach into this week that has helped them open league play with back-to-back wins, they also realize the importance of the game in the continued resurgence of the program.

“We know this is a big game for us this week,” Strong said. “I told the team the other day this is only the third time in school history where we have been 7-0. We haven’t been undefeated since I’ve been here. We haven’t been in the conference race. We just talk about being a one-game season, and let’s just continue to play. But this is a big game; it’s a big game for the program.”

Rushing Defense to be Tested by Bearcats
In last weekend’s win over USF, the Cardinals allowed 197 yards rushing to the Bulls and they know that is an area that must improve this week. Cincinnati enters Friday’s game ranked 16th in the nation and No. 1 in the BIG EAST in rushing at more than 225 yards per game. Senior George Winn paces the Bearcats at 101.2 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry.

“We gave up a lot of yards rushing to South Florida and it was all about us not being gap-sound,” said Strong. “We just weren’t taking care of our responsibilities. We had a lot of guys jumping out of gaps. You have to be able to get off of blocks. If you can do that, you can stop the run. You’re going to have to load the box at times and get another safety in the box to tackle the ball carrier.”

Motoring Mauldin Makes Impact for Louisville Defense
One member of the Louisville defense who has made a big impact during the last two weeks is defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin. The sophomore had six tackles, including two sacks and three tackles for loss, to go with a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry in the win over USF to earn BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Weeks on Monday. In the last two games, Mauldin has registered 11 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the Cardinals’ wins over Pittsburgh and USF.

“As hard as he plays in a game, he goes just as hard in practice,” Strong said. “He only knows one speed and he goes hard all of the time. He’s exciting to watch and the last two weeks, he’s played extremely well. He’s one of those guys that can really turn it on. He can really rush the passer.”

National Rankings Not a Concern for Strong
Despite being one of just 11 unbeaten teams in the nation entering this week’s game, the Cardinals are ranked no higher than 14th in either of the two major national polls and are positioned at No. 16 in the latest BCS standings. However, Strong is much more concerned with whether his Cardinals can continue to do what’s needed to win games rather than where Louisville fits in any of the national rankings right now.

“I tell our guys that at the end of the season, let’s see where we end up,” Strong explained. “Right now, if we start worrying about the rankings, then all of sudden you go get beat and you’re not ranked anymore. Let’s just continue to get better and worry about our next opponent. I place no value at all on the rankings and we don’t even talk about it.”

Game Information: Louisville (7-0, 2-0) vs. Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0)
When: Oct. 26, 2012 – 8 p.m. ET
Where: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (55,000), Louisville, Ky.
TV: ESPN – Carter Blackburn (p-x-p), Rod Gilmore (analyst) and Jemele Hill will broadcast the game live.
Radio: The Louisville Sports Radio Network with Paul Rogers (p-x-p), Joe Tronzo (analyst) and Doug Ormay (sideline) calling the action
Series Record: UC leads 29-21-1
In Louisville: UC leads 13-9-1
Last Meeting: Cincinnati 25, Louisville 16 – 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio
Rankings: Louisville is ranked 14th in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll and 16th in the latest AP Top 25; Cincinnati is receiving votes but unranked in both polls.

October 21, 2012

Louisville Remains 14th in USA Today Coaches’ Poll, 16th in AP Top 25

For the second consecutive week, unbeaten Louisville is ranked 14th in the USA Today coaches’ poll and 16th in the Associated Press Top 25. Yesterday, the Cardinals improved to 7-0 overall and 2-0 in BIG EAST Conference games with their 27-25 win over USF. Entering the ninth week of the season, Louisville is joined in the national rankings by Rutgers (No. 15 in USA Today/No. 18 in AP), while Cincinnati is among the teams receiving votes outside the top 25 in both polls.

Up next, Louisville will host rival Cincinnati in a BIG EAST Conference showdown on Friday at 8 p.m., ET at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.