Archive for November, 2012

November 29, 2012

No. 23 Cardinals Win at Rutgers to Clinch BIG EAST Title

Banged-up sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater came off the bench to throw two second half touchdown passes, and redshirt freshman John Wallace kicked a 29-yard field goal with 1:41 left to lift No. 23 Louisville to a 20-17 BIG EAST Conference title clinching victory over No. 25 Rutgers on Thursday night in Piscataway, N.J.

With the win, the Cardinals (10-2, 5-2) clinched their second straight BIG EAST title and the third in school history. The league title will be shared with Rutgers and Syracuse, while Cincinnati can also earn a share with a win over Connecticut on Saturday. Whether it’s a three-way or four-way tie for the BIG EAST title, the league’s BCS bowl representative will ultimately be determined by the highest ranked team in the BCS standings. The final 2012 BCS standings and the BCS bowl matchups will be announced on Sunday at 8:30 p.m., ET on ESPN.

Bridgewater, who did not start Thursday’s matchup because of a broken wrist on his left (non-throwing) hand, entered the game in the second quarter and finished with 263 yards through the air on 20-of-28 passing with two touchdowns. Senior Will Stein earned the start and finished 8-of-11 for 59 yards passing while playing at various points in the game throughout the night. Senior Damian Copeland led the Cardinals receivers with six catches for 58 yards, while junior Jeremy Wright and sophomore DeVante Parker each had scoring catches.

Defensively, sophomore safety Calvin Pryor led Louisville with seven tackles and a pivotal fumble recovery late in the third quarter that led directly to the Cardinals’ first lead of the night. Junior linebacker Preston Brown added six tackles, while sophomore defensive back Terell Floyd and freshman linebacker James Burgess each had interceptions in the win.

A complete recap of Thursday’s win with links to stats and photos is available here at UofLsports.com.

Post-Game Notes

  • With the win, Louisville moved closer to earning its second BCS bowl berth in school history (2007 Orange Bowl) and its third major bowl bid (1991 Fiesta Bowl).

  • The Cardinals have won back-to-back road games at Rutgers for the first time and have won three straight overall against the Scarlet Knights.

  • Louisville reached 10 wins for the first time since going 12-1 in 2006. The Cardinals have finished with 10 or more wins four times in school history.

  • UofL improved to 6-1 this season in games decided by seven points or less. The Cardinals are 5-0 when allowing 20 points or less.

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November 28, 2012

Series History Notebook: Louisville & Rutgers

Thursday’s matchup (7:30 p.m., ET, ESPN) will be the 12th meeting all-time between Louisville and Rutgers on the football field with the Scarlet Knights holding a 7-4 advantage in a series that dates back to 1976. UofL has won each of the last two games in the series as the Cardinals won 16-14 last season at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and 40-13 in Piscataway, N.J., in 2010. The victory in 2010 halted a two-game skid for Louisville in the series.

  • The Cardinals are 4-3 against Rutgers since the two teams began play in the BIG EAST Conference in 2005.

  • Louisville is 1-4 all-time in Piscataway against the Scarlet Knights with the 40-13 win in 2010 being the only victory.

  • The series began in 1976 and the Scarlet Knights won the first four meetings.

  • The Scarlet Knights knocked the Cardinals from the ranks of the unbeatens in 2006 when Jeremy Ito booted a 28-yard field goal to give Rutgers a 28-25 win and drop the Cardinals to 8-1 overall. That game, like this week’s matchup, was a nationally televised Thursday night showdown in Piscataway.

Most Recent Louisville-Rutgers Results

  • UofL 16, RU 14 – (10/21/11 – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium): Chris Philpott tied a school record with a 52-yard field goal, and Teddy Bridgewater threw a touchdown pass in the third quarter as Louisville beat Rutgers 16-14 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, snapping a three-game skid. The Cardinals had three interceptions, ending Rutgers’ first two drives, and Dexter Heyman picked off Gary Nova with 1:41 left to preserve the victory. Jeremy Wright ran for a career-high 108 yards on just 11 carries, the Cardinals’ first running back to top 100 yards that season. Dominique Brown also ran for a touchdown. Rutgers pulled within 16-14 with 14:10 left after driving 80 yards over 14 plays when Nova tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu. That was as close as they would get, as Mark Harrison dropped a would-be touchdown with the nearest defender 10 yards away, and Rutgers wound up punting on fourth-and-1 with 7:06 left.

  • UofL 40, RU 13 – (11/26/10 – High Point Solutions Stadium): Running back Bilal Powell caught two touchdowns and ran for another and Louisville became bowl eligible in Charlie Strong’s first season as coach with a 40-13 victory over Rutgers. Powell caught touchdown passes of 17 and 11 yards from Justin Burke on the Cardinals’ first two series and ran for 11 of his 123 yards to cap the third as Louisville become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007, a season they weren’t selected for a postseason game. Will Stein added a 1-yard touchdown toss to Cameron Graham, running back Jeremy Wright scored on a 64-yard run and Johnny Patrick had a 35-yard interception return for a score late for the Cardinals.

  • RU 34, UofL 14 – (11/27/09 – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium): Mohamed Sanu ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns to lead Rutgers past Louisville 34-14. Joe Martinek added 90 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Tom Savage threw for a score and ran for another. Adam Froman passed for 254 yards and a touchdown for Louisville. The Scarlet Knights were held to 130 yards during a loss to the Orange, but bettered that total by the end of the first quarter against injury-depleted Louisville. Rutgers scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and the Cardinals would get no closer than 14 the rest of the way to end the disappointing season. Rutgers scored a touchdown on each of its first four possessions, taking turns alternately grinding things on the ground with Martinek and Sanu and hitting for big plays through the air with Savage and Tim Brown.

November 27, 2012

Preview Notebook: BCS Berth at Stake as No. 23 UofL Visits No. 25 Rutgers

Video Interviews: Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson | Will Stein | Eli Rogers

The 23rd-ranked Cardinals face a big challenge on Thursday night when they travel to No. 25 Rutgers with a BCS bowl berth hanging in the balance. Having lost back-to-back games, Louisville (9-2, 4-2) looks to regain momentum and earn a share of its second straight BIG EAST Conference title, while the Scarlet Knights (9-2, 5-1) look for their first ever BCS bid after already earning at least a share of the program’s first ever league championship. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., ET at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J., in a nationally televised matchup on ESPN.

Rutgers’ Pressure Defense Earns High Rankings Nationally
Rutgers has allowed 71 points in six BIG EAST games this season, the fifth-lowest total allowed in league history. The Scarlet Knights have allowed just 11.8 points per game against BIG EAST competition in 2012. Rutgers ranks in the top 25 nationally in four major defensive statistical categories – scoring defense (4th, 13.7 ppg), total defense (14th, 317.4 ypg), pass efficiency defense (18th, 111.04) and rushing defense (11th, 110.7 ypg). They are also tied for third nationally with 17 touchdowns allowed and tied for the fourth fewest rushing touchdowns allowed.

“Rutgers is similar to us on defense,” said Cardinals’ head coach Charlie Strong on Monday. “If you watch them, they bring a lot of pressure. (Khaseem) Greene (senior linebacker) is probably one of the best defensive players in the conference. They don’t have that big, physical guy in the middle. They like to pressure you a lot.”

Scarlet Knights’ Passing Attack Follows Lead of Running Game
Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova leads the Rutgers’ offense having thrown for 2,282 yards (207.5 yards per game) on 191-of-320 passing (59.7 completion percentage) with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His favorite targets are sophomore Brandon Coleman, who has 37 catches for 563 yards and nine touchdowns, and senior Mark Harrison, who has 37 receptions for 429 yards and five touchdowns. In the running game, sophomore Jawan Jamison shoulders the load with 1,004 yards (91.3 yards per game) on 227 carries (4.4 yards per rush) with four touchdowns.

“(It’s) similar to what we just saw,” Strong said. “The quarterback, (Gary) Nova, gets the ball out of his hand quickly. They do a great job in running the football. They have two really talented running backs. It is what you expect. If you look at it, they are a team that is going to run the ball and rely on their defense to apply pressure to win the game. They are not going to lose it on offense. They want their defense to take the field and go win it for them.”

Preparation Removes Pressure for Cardinals
After suffering back-to-back losses leading up to the biggest game of the season, it would appear as though there would be immense pressure on Louisville entering Thursday night’s nationally televised showdown at Rutgers. However, despite a BCS berth on the line and a BIG EAST title within reach, Strong insists any pressure that could come for his team will be solved by a good week of preparation.

“Pressure? I don’t feel any pressure,” said Strong. “I just want to make sure my team is ready. If we prepare our football team, there shouldn’t be any pressure. I tell them that all of the time. If you’re prepared to go play, there shouldn’t be any pressure. Just go play and play within yourself. I don’t need anyone to go make a great play, just go be yourself.”

BCS Bowl Berth Would Be Next Step in Growth of UofL Football Program
A victory against Rutgers on Thursday would likely secure the Louisville football program’s second BCS bowl berth and the program’s third major bowl appearance all-time. The Cardinals’ first major bowl game came with a win over Alabama in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl and that was followed by a win against Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl. Following three straight seasons with a post-season appearance, the Cardinals have returned as a nationally prominent program under the guidance of Strong, who will lead UofL to its third consecutive bowl appearance this season.

“I think it would be huge because it would be the second time in our history that we’ve been to a BCS bowl game,” Strong said of the impact of reaching such a level. “It would be great for the program. It would be great for the community and it would be great for our players.”

Game Info: Louisville (9-2, 4-2) at Rutgers (9-2, 5-1)
When: Nov. 29, 2012 – 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454), Piscataway, N.J.
TV: ESPN with Rece Davis (pxp), Jesse Palmer (analyst), David Pollack (analyst) and Samantha Steele (sideline) covering the game
Radio: The Louisville Sports Radio Network with Paul Rogers (pxp), Joe Tronzo (analyst) and Doug Ormay (sideline) calling the action
Series Record: Rutgers leads 7-4
In Piscataway: Rutgers leads 4-1
Last Meeting: Louisville 16, Rutgers 14 – 2011 in Louisville, Ky.
Rankings: Louisville is ranked 23rd in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll and among the unranked teams receiving votes in the AP Top 25; Rutgers is ranked No. 25 in the coaches’ poll and is receiving votes in the AP poll.

November 26, 2012

Monday Press Conference Notebook

Press Conference Audio from CardsTV: Head Coach Charlie Strong

No. 23 Louisville (9-2, 4-2) closes the 2012 regular season with a visit to Piscataway, N.J., on Thursday night to face No. 25 Rutgers (9-2, 5-1) in a game that will decide the BIG EAST title and earn the league’s automatic berth to a BCS bowl. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., ET with live coverage on ESPN with Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack and Samantha Steele calling the game. The Cardinals enter the game following last Saturday’s 23-20 triple overtime loss to Connecticut, while the Scarlet Knights dropped a 27-6 decision at Pittsburgh last weekend to halt a five-game winning streak in league games.

“We have a large task ahead of us,” said Strong during his weekly press conference on Monday. “After dropping the last two games, we have to regain our focus and regain our confidence. The thing we have to realize is we’ve won nine games and dropped the last two, but this team is still a really good football team. Now, we have to go on the road. We have to go on the road to win a championship. What’s at stake for us and what we really have to understand is we have a chance to win a conference championship. We have a chance to go play in a BCS bowl game. We also have a chance for a 10-win season.”

After last week’s loss, the Cardinals need a win at Rutgers to likely secure a berth in a BCS bowl game. With a win over Rutgers and a win by Cincinnati over Connecticut, there will be a four-way tie for the BIG EAST title. Cincinnati would be eliminated with a loss. If four teams end up in a tie (Rutgers, Syracuse, Louisville and Cincinnati), a mini-conference is created between those four schools. The Cardinals would be 2-1 against the three teams, as would Rutgers. The Cardinals would likely go to a BCS game because they would be the highest ranked team. If Cincinnati loses and there is a three-way tie, the same format would apply. The Cardinals would receive the berth in that scenario based on being the highest ranked team. Louisville would have beaten Rutgers and lost to Syracuse, while the Scarlet Knights would have lost to Louisville and defeated Syracuse.

“It’s critical and we always talk about it – we have to pack our defense,” Strong emphasized. “It is going to be critical that our defense plays well. We know that there is going to be a tough crowd for us. It’s going to be a packed crowd for us, but we have to understand this is for it all. This is for the championship and this is what you come to college for. This is what you dream about. This is what it is all about, playing for a championship. Our players are locked in. We had a great practice yesterday. We are going to come back today and it is going to be like a Wednesday. Our players need to understand, and they really do understand and they really want to go play well.”

Strong Says Bridgewater Will Play at Rutgers
Following the loss to the Huskies last Saturday, Strong told reporters that Cardinals’ sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a broken wrist on his non-throwing (left) wrist late in the second quarter. Despite the injury, the talented signal caller returned late in the third quarter and later orchestrated a game-tying, 92-yard drive ending with a 6-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker to force overtime. He finished the day with 331 yards through the air on 30-of-53 passing and two touchdowns. With the short week to recover, Strong is confident Bridgewater will play on Thursday.

“The thing about Teddy is no different than Saturday,” Strong said. “He was able to come back the second half, so it is nothing different than Saturday. He will definitely play on Thursday. He cannot go underneath center and take a snap. Everything is from the shotgun, so he can catch the snap. It’s more about just handing the ball off because you need your left hand to hand the football off, but he throws with his right. We were able to go out there in the second half and he was able to throw and make the checks. He played very well in the second half. The thing we have to do is protect Teddy.”

Stein Has Winning Experience at Rutgers if Needed
If the Cardinals elect to go with a different option at quarterback against the Scarlet Knights, senior backup Will Stein brings experience as a winner on the road at Rutgers if called upon. On Nov. 26, 2010, Stein came off the bench for injured starter Justin Burke and went 9-for-14 for 72 yards passing and his first career touchdown to help guide Louisville to a 40-13 win at Rutgers. The win clinched a bowl berth for the Cardinals in their first season under the guidance of Strong.

“Stein will get a chance to play,” Strong said on Monday. “If we have to get underneath center on the goal line, then he can always come in. The thing about Stein is we are very comfortable with (him). This football team is comfortable with Stein. He has played a lot of ball. If you think about two years ago, it was Stein that went in when (Justin) Burke got injured and won a game for us at Rutgers.”

Running Game Essential to Cardinals’ Success
No matter who is playing quarterback for Louisville at Rutgers, it is imperative that the Cardinals find production in the running game. Louisville rushed for a total of just 75 yards in their back-to-back losses — 27 yards against Connecticut and 48 versus Syracuse. The Cardinals have dipped to 91st in the country in rushing offense at 134.8 yards per game. Louisville has thrown the football 115 times in the last two games, including 65 passes in the loss to Connecticut. The Cardinals are 2-4 under Strong when throwing the football 40 or more times in a game, including a 1-2 mark this season. On the flip side, Louisville is 7-2 under Strong when running the ball 40 or more times in a game.

“What’s critical for us is we have to run the football,” explained Strong. “That’s who we are. If you look at Saturday, we were not effective at all. Connecticut did a good job. They just two-gapped their linemen. They were big and strong up front. We are a gap-scheme team. We run gap and we get the schemes on the defense. But, we have to get the run game going. You are going to have to move people, just come off and attack people and make sure that we have the right plays called. It’s a double game where you double guys and move them out of the way.”

November 24, 2012

No. 18 Cardinals Fall to Connecticut in Triple Overtime

Chad Christen’s 30-yard field goal in the third overtime gave Connecticut a 23-20 upset of No. 18 Louisville on Saturday afternoon at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

The Cardinals (9-2, 4-2 BIG EAST Conference) dropped their second straight game but still have a chance for a BCS bowl berth by beating first-place Rutgers (9-2, 5-1 BIG EAST) on Thursday in Piscataway, N.J. Blidi Wreh-Wilson set up the Huskies’ winning score by intercepting Teddy Bridgewater’s pass intended for DeVante Parker in the end zone. The Huskies ran three plays for 12 yards before Christen’s second overtime kick gave Connecticut (5-6, 2-4 BIG EAST) its second straight win.

The Cardinals trailed 10-0 after three quarters and briefly lost Bridgewater with a left wrist injury before the sophomore returned to lead Louisville’s fourth-quarter rally capped by his 6-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker with 21 seconds remaining in regulation. After trading field goals in the first overtime, Johnny McEntee put Connecticut ahead with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Shakim Phillips before Bridgewater’s 25-yard TD pass to Parker.

Bridgewater completed 30 of 53 passes for 331 and two touchdowns but was sacked four times. Damian Copeland caught five passes for 95 yards while Parker added 91 on eight receptions.

Sophomore Calvin Pryor finished the game with a career-high 11 tackles, seven of which were solo stops. He also had his third pass breakup of the year. Freshman James Burgess registered the first double-digit tackle total of his career, making 10 stops. He also tallied the first interception of his career.

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

Post-Game Notes

  • The Cardinals and Huskies met for the ninth meeting in series history. Louisville had won the last two meetings heading into Saturday’s contest. Louisville still holds a 5-4 series advantage. When playing in Louisville, the Cardinals own a 3-2 mark against the Huskies.

  • Hakeem Smith made the 36th-straight start of his career. Also with a notable number of consecutive starts: Teddy Bridgewater (21), Mario Benavides (21), Alex Kupper (24) and Jake Smith (24).

  • Teddy Bridgewater surpassed 300 yards passing for the fifth time this season. He has thrown for 5,318 yards in his career, becoming just the eighth quarterback in school history to accomplish the feat. He remained in eighth place in the career all-time charts.

  • Bridgewater’s 331 yards gives him 3,189 for the season, putting him into fourth place on the single-season charts. He passed Stefan LeFors, who threw for 3,145 yards in 2003.

  • Bridgewater has thrown a touchdown pass in 10-straight games. He has 23 passing touchdowns this season, tied with Dave Ragone (2001) for sixth most in a single season.

November 23, 2012

Series History Notebook: Louisville & Connecticut

Saturday’s matchup (Noon ET, ABC) will be the ninth meeting all-time between Louisville and Connecticut on the gridiron with the Cardinals holding a 5-3 advantage in a series that dates back to 2000. UofL has won each of the last two games in the series as the Cardinals won 34-20 last season at Rentschler Field and 26-0 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 2010. The 2010 game marked Louisville’s first shutout as members of the BIG EAST Conference. Prior to the Cardinals’ back-to-back wins, the Huskies had won three straight in the series with their last victory coming in East Harford, Conn., 38-25 in 2009.

  • At home, the Cardinals are 3-1 all-time versus Connecticut, but have split the last two meetings at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Connecticut took a 26-21 victory over Louisville in 2008.

  • Louisville owns a 4-3 mark as members of the BIG EAST Conference against Connecticut.

  • Cardinals’ head coach Charlie Strong is 2-0 in his career against UConn, while Huskies’ head coach Paul Pasqualoni is 1-2 in his career (at UConn and Syracuse) against UofL.

  • Louisville does not have any players on its roster from the state of Connecticut and the Huskies have no players on their roster from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Most Recent Louisville-Connecticut Results

  • UofL 34, UConn 20 – (11/19/11 – Rentschler Field): Teddy Bridgewater threw for 174 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns as Louisville beat Connecticut 34-20. Victor Anderson added 72 yards rushing for Louisville, which kept its BIG EAST title hopes alive in a tightly packed conference. Bridgewater completed 14 of 22 passes with an interception. Cornerback Adrian Bushell started the scoring festivities immediately, as he opened the game with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to put Louisville ahead, 7-0. Bushell, who only took 15 seconds to sprint the length of the field, became the fourth player in program history to record a 100-yard kickoff return. Johnny McEntee was 18 of 43 passing for 253 yards for UConn. Kashif Moore caught six passes for 110 yards and a TD and also scored a rushing touchdown.

  • UofL 26, UConn 0 – (10/23/10 – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium): Doug Beaumont returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown and Chris Philpott kicked four field goals to lead Louisville to a 26-0 victory over Connecticut. Adam Froman completed 18 of 30 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown for the Cardinals. Bilal Powell rushed for 105 yards on 27 carries for the Cardinals. Powell entered the game fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing, averaging 149.7 yards per game. Jordan Todman, came into the game third in rushing (152.2 yards per game) in the FBS, was held to a season-low 80 yards on 19 carries for the Huskies.

  • UConn 38, UofL 25 – (10/17/09 – Rentschler Field): Andre Dixon ran for 153 yards and three touchdowns and Connecticut beat Louisville 38-25 for the Huskies’ first BIG EAST win of the season. Cody Endres threw for 273 yards and a touchdown as UConn beat the Cardinals for the third consecutive season. Marcus Easley had 108 receiving yards, including a 16-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Endres that helped UConn blow open a 14-13 game with 17 third quarter points. Louisville quarterback Adam Froman threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns, including a 4-yard scoring pass on the game’s final play.

November 22, 2012

Matchup Notebook: Louisville Defense vs. Connecticut Offense

The Need to Get Off the Field
One of the biggest problems facing the Louisville defense this season is the inability to get off the field on third down. Louisville limited Temple to 2-of-10 on third down and 7-of-25 over the last two games prior to the loss at Syracuse. The Cardinals held Cincinnati to 5-of-15 on third down on Oct. 26. The Cardinals are allowing the opposition to convert 41.6 percent on the “money down.” However, against the Orange, the Cardinals were not able to get off the field. Syracuse converted an amazing 14-of-19 chances in the 45-26 loss. The Cardinals rank 103rd in the country in third-down defense, allowing the opposition to convert on 46.21 percent of their chances. However, if the down shifts to fourth, the Cardinals are one of the best in the country in stopping their opponents. The opposition is has been stopped 4-of-18 times, which ranks as the fifth-best percentage in the nation.

McCombs Hits 100-Yard Mark Again for Huskies
Redshirt sophomore running back Lyle McCombs has rushed for more than 100 yards eight times in his career, including twice this season for Connecticut. Most recently, he rushed for 129 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown in the Huskies’ 24-17 win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 9. McCombs, who has 667 yards rushing (74.1 yards per game) and five touchdowns this season, is already eighth on UConn’s career rushing attempts leaderboard with 468 entering Saturday’s game. In 2011, McCombs had a breakout season for the Huskies rushing for 1,151 yards and seven touchdowns on 275 carries. He was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America and was a Second Team All-BIG EAST selection.

100-Yard Rushers Becoming Too Common
The Cardinals have given up five 100-yard rushers this season and four straight after Syracuse’s Jerome Smith rushed for 144 yards on Nov. 10. The Cardinals gave up 100-yard rushers in wins over Cincinnati and USF. Louisville gave up 102 yards on the ground to FIU’s Jeremiah Harden in the 28-21 win on Sept. 22. Harden carried 20 times to become the first player to rush for 100 yards on the Cardinals since Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead, who ran for 151 yards in a win for the Bearcats last season at Paul Brown Stadium. The Cardinals went a span of 11 games without giving up a 100-yard rusher. Southern Mississippi’s Desmond Johnson missed the century mark by running for 99 yards.

Davis Leads UConn Receivers
Redshirt sophomore Geremy Davis leads the Connecticut receiving corps this season with 556 yards on 37 catches and one touchdown. After making just six catches for 73 yards in all of 2011, Davis had a career best nine catches for 123 yards and his first career touchdown in the win over Western Michigan earlier this season. The guy throwing those passes to Davis is redshirt sophomore quarterback Chandler Whitmer. In his first season as the Huskies’ starter, Whitmer has thrown for 2,328 yards (232.8 yards per game) while completing 185-of-309 passes for eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Louisville Solid Against the Pass
The Cardinals have had their problems against the run this season, but they have played pretty well against the pass. Louisville ranks 23rd in the nation against the pass, allowing 194.9 yards per game. Louisville gave up 246 yards through the air versus Syracuse, which was the most since allowing 287 yards on Oct. 13 versus Pittsburgh. The Cardinals gave up 54 yards in a 45-17 win over Temple and 25 in a win over Southern Mississippi on Sept. 29. Louisville has allowed over 200 yards passing in just four games this year, which included a season-high 363 versus North Carolina. The opposition is completing just 60.9 percent of its throws this year.

Cardinals Look to Create More Turnovers
Louisville ranks 68th in the nation in turnovers forced through the first 10 games. The Cardinals have created 11 fumbles and six interceptions this year, but failed to turnover the Orange in the 45-26 loss on Nov. 10. It was the second time this year that they failed to create a turnover. They are ranked 33rd in the nation in fumbles recovered. Prior to the Syracuse game, the Cardinals had created 10 turnovers over the previous four games.

November 21, 2012

Matchup Notebook: Louisville Offense vs. Connecticut Defense

Video Interviews: Teddy Bridgewater | Scott Radcliff | Jeremy Wright

Offensive Numbers Increase from 2011
After finishing the 2011 season with 400 yards of total offense in one game, the Cardinals have reached that number in seven of 10 games this season and have surpassed 500 in two of the last three games. In the last three games, the Cardinals have been virtually unstoppable, averaging a solid 501.3 yards per game. Louisville tallied 524 in a win over Cincinnati and 508 in a victory against Temple. The Cardinals are ranked 41st in the nation in total offense at 434.3 yards per game, which would be the first time Louisville averaged better than 400 yards of total offense since the 2007 season.

Gawdy Defensive Numbers for the Huskies
The Connecticut defense has established itself as one of the top units in college football this season. UConn is ninth in total defense (296.2 yards per game), 11th in rushing defense (107.6 yards per game), 22nd in tackles for loss (7.0 per game), 22nd in sacks (2.7 per game), 21st in pass defense (188.6 yards per game) and 19th in scoring defense (18.4 points per game). The Huskies lead the BIG EAST in total defense, rushing defense, pass defense and sacks.

“They’re a tough defense — very physical and they stop the run,” said Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. “I believe they’re leading the conference in total defense, so we have a big task ahead.”

Williams Leads UConn Defense as Program’s All-Time Sack Leader
Senior defensive end Trevardo Williams became Connecticut’s career sack leader on Nov. 3 against USF. Entering this week’s game, he has 27.5 career sacks, including 8.5 this season. Williams ranks 18th in the nation and first in the BIG EAST at 0.85 sacks per game this season. He is also ninth on the team in tackles with 36 overall.

Smallwood Tied for 20th in the Nation in Tackles
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Yawin Smallwood leads the Huskies in tackles this season with 100 entering this week’s game and is tied for 20th in the nation at 10.11 tackles per game. He is also tied for 27th nationally in tackles for loss with 1.3 per game, which is tied for first in the BIG EAST with teammate Sio Moore. Smallwood has been honored twice this season as BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week.

Bridgewater Saving His Best for Last
Not that sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater didn’t play good football in the first half of the season, but he has saved his best for the second half of the year. While his first half numbers were solid, completing 72.0 percent of his throws, throwing for 1,353 yards and tossing eight touchdowns, his second-half numbers are even better. In the last five games, Bridgewater has completed 69.9 percent of his throws and passed for 13 touchdowns. He is averaging 301.0 yards per game in the last five contests and has tossed just three interceptions. He tossed a career-best five touchdown passes in a win over Temple on Nov. 3.

See Red and Score
Through 10 games, the Louisville offense has ventured into the red zone 42 times and come away with 41 scores (98 percent). The Cardinals have converted in the red zone on 27 straight possessions in the red zone. The last time the Cardinals failed to convert in the red zone was in the third quarter against North Carolina on Sept. 15, when Senorise Perry was stopped on fourth and 1. The Cardinals lead the nation in red zone offense, besting Clemson, Wyoming and Mississippi, which are converting at a 94 percent clip.

Spreading the Scoring Wealth
Louisville has demonstrated its outstanding, playmaking depth on offense during its 9-1 start this season. Twelve different players have found their way into the end zone on offense. Those 12 players have combined to score 43 offensive touchdowns. Junior Senorise Perry leads the team with 11 touchdowns, while junior Jeremy Wright is second with nine scores. Sophomore wide receiver DeVante Parker is tops among the wide receivers with six touchdown receptions.

Big Play Cardinals
The Cardinals, who weren’t much of a big-play offense last season, have changed that in 2012. Louisville already has 46 rushing and passing plays of over 20 yards through the first nine games. The Cardinals have nine runs of over 20 or more yards and 37 pass plays. Despite the big loss, the Cardinals had five passing plays of over 20 yards. Sophomore wide receiver DeVante Parker, who only has 22 receptions, owns a team-high 11 receptions of 20 or more yards, while junior Senorise Perry has eight plays, and junior Damian Copeland and Andrell Smith have six plays of 20 or more yards.

November 20, 2012

Preview Notebook: UConn Visits No. 18 Cardinals for Senior Day

The 18th-ranked Cardinals return home after a 45-26 loss at Syracuse to close out the 2012 regular season at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with a visit from Connecticut on Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon ET with live coverage on the BIG EAST Television Network. Louisville (9-1, 4-1 BIG EAST) needs a win over the Huskies (4-6, 1-4 BIG EAST) to setup a BIG EAST title showdown at Rutgers in next week’s regular season finale in Piscataway, N.J., while UConn is looking for a win to keep its bowl eligibility aspirations alive.

Personality of Small Senior Class Allows for Leadership
Despite a small senior class of only 10 scholarship players and 13 total players overall, the Cardinals have benefited significantly from great leadership from the most experienced members of the program. Thanks to outgoing and strong personalities, this senior class commanded respect in the lockerroom, on the practice fields and on game days, which has been a key factor in Louisville’s success in 2012. The Louisville football program and head coach Charlie Strong will honor the Cardinals’ 2012 senior class with a pregame ceremony on Saturday.

“What you were able to do with this senior class is you have some really strong personalities,” Strong said. “I know this, (Will) Stein doesn’t play, but he has such a strong personality that guys will follow his lead. When he speaks, guys will listen to him. Mario (Benavides) has a really strong personality and (Adrian) Bushell on defense. You were able to take three or four guys out of that senior class and those guys were able to stand up, speak and players would listen to them. So, they were able to take that leadership.”

Need to Stop the Huskies’ Run
The Cardinals have consistently been one of the best teams in the league and the nation over the last couple of years against the run. However, this season has been different as the Cardinals are 66th in the country, allowing 161.0 yards per game. Louisville has had its issues since starting league play in stopping the run. After yielding just 93 yards in the league opener against Pittsburgh, Louisville has given up an average of 231.0 yards on the ground in the last four games. Louisville gave up a season-high 278 yards rushing in the 45-26 loss at Syracuse. The 278 yards on the ground were the most by an opponent during the three-year reign of head coach Charlie Strong. It’s only the sixth time in 36 games that Louisville has allowed 200 or more yards on the ground.

“We have to stop the run,” said Strong in reference to the key defensively against Connecticut. “We have to make sure we can separate off of blocks, go make tackles and not give up the big play on defense.”

Cardinals Going for Perfect Home Season
With the 45-17 win over Temple on Nov. 3, Louisville improved to 6-0 at home in 2012, marking the Cardinals’ first 6-0 home start since the 2006 season. A win on Saturday over Connecticut would give Louisville a perfect home season for the first time since going 7-0 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 2006. Louisville has posted six unbeaten and untied home seasons in school history. The Cardinals went undefeated at home in 1990, 1993, 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Looking for Double Digits
With its 9-1 record, Louisville is within one win of reaching a double-digit win plateau for only the fourth time in school history. With a win over Connecticut, the Cardinals would gather their 10th win of the season. The Cardinals won 11 games in 2001 (11-2) and 2004 (11-1) to claim Conference USA titles. The 2006 squad (12-1) won a school-record 12 games and was victorious in their first BCS Bowl Game — a 24-13 win over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.

Cardinals Respond After Losses
One good thing about the Cardinals’ loss to Syracuse is that the team usually bounces back and doesn’t compound the issue. In three years under head coach Charlie Strong, the Cardinals are 9-3 in games following a defeat. Louisville has lost two or more games in a row just twice in three seasons. Louisville’s longest losing streak under Strong is three games after dropping three in a row last season dipping the Cardinals to 2-4.

Game Information: Louisville (9-1, 4-1) vs. Connecticut (4-6, 1-4)
When: Nov. 24, 2012 – Noon ET
Where: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (55,000), Louisville, Ky.
TV: BIG EAST Network with Eamon McEneaney (pxp), David Diaz-Infante (analyst) and Adam Amin (sideline) covering the game
Radio: The Louisville Sports Radio Network with Paul Rogers (pxp), Joe Tronzo (analyst) and Doug Ormay (sideline) calling the action
Series Record: Louisville leads 5-3
In Louisville: Louisville leads 3-1
Last Meeting: Louisville 34, Connecticut 20 – 2011 in East Hartford, Conn.
Rankings: Louisville is ranked 20th in the latest BCS standings, 18th in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll and 19th in the latest AP Top 25; Connecticut is unranked.

November 19, 2012

Monday Press Conference Notebook

Press Conference Audio from CardsTV: Head Coach Charlie Strong | Mario Benavides | Alex Kupper

Following the final bye week of the season, Cardinals’ head coach Charlie Strong talked with reporters on Monday afternoon at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex to review last week’s activities and preview Saturday’s BIG EAST Conference home game against Connecticut (Noon ET, BIG EAST Network). After suffering a disappointing loss at Syracuse in its last outing on Nov. 10, No. 18 Louisville (9-1, 4-1 BIG EAST) used the off week from game competition to regain traction for the final two weeks of the regular season.

“The open week allowed our coaches and players to rest mentally and physically,” Strong said. “What we were able to do was just turn our attention just to the small details. We were able to execute at practice. What’s important now is we have two games left. This is a two-game season and our players understand that.”

That two-game season begins with the visit from a Connecticut team that earned its best win of the season in a 24-17 victory over Pittsburgh on Nov. 9 leading up to its final bye week last weekend. The Huskies, led by second year head coach Paul Pasqualoni, enter this week’s game at 4-6 overall and 1-4 in league games. The win over the Panthers halted a four-game losing skid for UConn, which needs the win to keep its bowl hopes alive.

“We have Connecticut, a very physical football team,” explained Strong. “They love to run the ball on offense, so it’s going to be a great test for our defense to see if we can go stop the run. They are a team on defense where they apply a lot of pressure. The big guys up front don’t do a lot, but they just want to win at the line of scrimmage. On special teams, we have to make something happen. All year long we haven’t been able to do anything on special teams, but we’ve got to get that done. With this football team right now, it’s all about our focus and our preparation. We control our own destiny from here out. It’s not what anyone is going to do to us. It’s what we are going to do to ourselves. The key right now is our effort and our preparation heading into these next two games and just making sure we are mentally and physically locked in.”

Louisville to Honor Senior Class on Saturday
Prior to this week’s game, the Louisville football program will say goodbye to 13 seniors (10 scholarship). The senior class has enjoyed a 27-21 record during their four years in the football program and have enjoyed three-straight winning campaigns. The list of the seniors who will be playing their last home game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium includes Mario Benavides, Daniel Brown, Adrian Bushell, Bo Eggers, Stephen Goodwin, Nick Heuser, Alex Kupper, Nate Nord, Scott Radcliff, Andrell Smith, Will Stein, DeMarcus Topp and Chris Zelli.

“Saturday is going to be senior day, and just appreciate what they’ve done,” Strong said of this week’s game. “If you look at this senior class, three-straight bowl games. Last season, we were co-champions of the BIG EAST. You think about (Will) Stein, you think about (Alex) Kupper, you think about Mario (Benavides), Andrell (Smith), (Scott) Radcliff – those guys on offense have played their best football. Then, on defense with Daniel Brown having an injury early, (he) may be able to play these next games. If he’s not able to play against Connecticut, he will be ready for the Rutgers game. Then, with (Adrian) Bushell playing the way he’s played. But this senior class – when we came in, we talked about our foundation. I just feel this group is a part of us because they’ve been with us for three years and they have been a part of watching this program build. You cannot ask for a stronger group of seniors with the leadership they have provided this season.”

Wright, Lamb to be Featured in Cardinals’ Backfield
With the loss of junior running back Senorise Perry to a torn ACL in the loss at Syracuse, the Cardinals have been forced to reshuffle the backfield rotation for the final two games of the season. After splitting time with Perry as the Cardinals’ featured ball-carriers, junior Jeremy Wright is expected to take on more of the workload this week against the Huskies while sophomore Corvin Lamb will assume the role as Louisville’s No. 2 running back option. Behind those two is junior Dominique Brown, who has not seen any game action this season due to injuries, but is now healthy and could be a third running threat if needed.

“Jeremy Wright is going to be the starter,” said Strong. “Corvin Lamb has been taking repetitions. If we have to use Dominique Brown, we will. We want to go win a (BIG EAST) championship. We’ll go with Jeremy just because he has the experience and he is going to play as much as he can. A lot of times, with the running back, you do need to give him a rest. We are going to feel very comfortable when Corvin goes into the game.”

Bye Week Comes at the Right Time for Louisville
After winning a school record nine straight games to open the season, the Cardinals struggled through its worst performance of 2012 in the 45-26 loss at Syracuse. The defeat was followed by the bye week, which according to Strong, came at a perfect time for Louisville. With the Cardinals’ goal of winning a BIG EAST title and earning a BCS bowl berth is still within reach, step one was moving on from the loss to Orange and refocusing for the final two weeks.

“It came at a great time for us,” Strong said of the bye week. “You’re looking at a football team that is still 9-1. What we wanted to do in the bye week is get that game is behind us. The Syracuse game is behind us. Get that game away and then just focus on the next two. Just focus on ourselves and making ourselves and this football team better.”