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.