Oct. 9, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If Mother Nature has a heart, she will give the Cardinals' offense a break this week at Pittsburgh. For the last two games, rain has limited the playbook and made the Cardinals one-dimensional.
Flooding limited the Louisville offense, but didn't stop the Cardinals as they recorded a 28-21 win over FIU on Sept. 22. Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater threw for 194 yards and a pair of interceptions. However, that was nothing compared to the severe drowning the Cardinals took in a 21-17 win over Southern Mississippi on Sept. 29.
Heavy rains left the field covered in almost 2-3 inches of water and completely took the Cardinals out of their play-action offense, which the team relies on heavily. Louisville registered only 13 passes and Bridgewater was held to a career-low 85 yards passing.
"You look at us offensively, we have played fairly well down the stretch," said head coach Charlie Strong. "We have been able to move the football. I still like the way our receivers are continuing to compete. Our offensive line is blocking and moving people out of the way to allow our running backs to run the ball. You look at Senorise Perry and you look at Jeremy Wright. Then, the quarterback is so poised right now. He started off hot. But still, we can really improve."
Perry recorded his second 100-yard game, with a career-best 118 yards and two scores, and Wright added 84 yards on the ground. As a team, Louisville ran for 184 yards in the come-from-behind win.
However, no one knows what the offense is supposed to look like right now because it's been so crazy with weather the last two weeks, but Bridgewater thinks the Cardinals are getting close to finding it.
"We all have a vision of what everything should look like in our head and we're pretty close to that," he said after practice on Tuesday.
The Cardinals are going to get a stiff test on Saturday when they face a stout Pittsburgh defense that has yielded just 320 yards of total offense through its first five games of the season.
"Their defense is similar to ours," said Bridgewater. "Our defense has been doing a great job of just giving us a look and preparing us for Pittsburgh in practice this week. Their physical and fast and well-assigned. It's going to be a good challenge for us.
"They're a pretty physical team. They've found their identity. They just line up and come after you."
Strong has stressed to his team the importance about getting off to a fast start in the BIG EAST Conference. From here on out, the Cardinals are entrenched in BIG EAST play, and they know they must get off to a fast start in the league race.
"It's very important, because it sends a message to the rest of our conference," said Bridgewater of the first conference game. "Our coaches haven't really been stressing it much, but they have been mentioning that it's the start of our real season. Even though we're 5-0, we're 0-0 in conference."
The Cardinals, the last team to start BIG EAST play, will get their first crack to see how they stack up with an 11 a.m. game on Saturday morning at Heinz Field, where they haven't won since 2006, and Strong knows his team needs to play well to win.
"You look at our first year here and we go up there and lose 20-3," said Strong. "Then, last year, we get beat. You look at last year's game and we won two and then we go and lose that game. Then we had to go beat Connecticut and South Florida at the end. We've got to know what we're up against. We have to make sure that we go in as a football team and we have to be prepared to go play that game. And we haven't been as locked in with that game."