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.”