Playing in its third straight bowl game, Louisville will look for its first 11-win season since 2006 and its second BCS win. The Cardinals defeated Wake Forest 24-13 in the 2007 Orange Bowl. Louisville will look to avenge a bowl loss to NC State in the Belk Bowl last season, and are looking for its first postseason win since a 31-28 victory over Southern Mississippi in the 2010 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.
Louisville’s success was largely in part to a solid passing game behind the arm of sophomore Teddy Bridgewater, who has thrown for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns. The Miami, Fla., product recorded two 400-yard performances and was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation.
Bridgewater was fortunate to be surrounded by one of the better wide receivers units in the country. A deep and talented group, the wide receivers made a number of big plays. Junior Damian Copeland leads the team with 48 receptions for 597 yards and one touchdown, while sophomore Eli Rogers recorded 42 receptions for 443 yards and four scores. The big playmaker has been sophomore DeVante Parker with his career-best 38 receptions for 712 yards and a team-best nine touchdowns. He has 12 receptions of 20 or more yards and is averaging 18.7 yards per catch. Senior Andrell Smith has made the biggest strides this season. After recording 11 receptions a year ago, Smith has responded with 30 catches for 481 yards and three scores.
The offensive line has stayed intact for much of the season. Led by Rimington Award finalist Mario Benavides, the line has been consistent all year long. Senior tackle Alex Kupper, sophomore guard Jake Smith and sophomore tackle Jamon Brown have started every game this season, while sophomore guard John Miller has been the other starter.
The Cardinals have played better defense over the last two games of the season versus Connecticut and Rutgers. In a 23-20 triple-overtime loss to Connecticut, he Cardinals limited the Huskies to 92 yards passing and completely shut down Rutgers in the second half, holding the Scarlet Knights to a second-half field goal.
Sophomore linebacker Preston Brown leads the Cardinals with 96 tackles from his middle linebacker position, Brown registered 84 tackles as a sophomore, but is having a better season this year after changing positions. Freshman James Burgess has enjoyed a great rookie season with 25 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions.
Sophomore Calvin Pryor is enjoying a fabulous season from his safety position. The team’s second-leading tackler, Pryor owns 94 stops and forced a team-high four fumbles, while junior Hakeem Smith is having his third-straight outstanding season with 66 tackles. Senior Adrian Bushell owns a career-high 59 stops and has 11 pass break-ups from his cornerback position.