LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
The University of Louisville football program is stepping into unchartered territory after taking care of Cincinnati 34-31 in overtime last Friday to move to 8-0 overall, 3-0 in the BIG EAST Conference.
The Cardinals jumped to 10th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and 12th in the Associated Press Poll. The biggest jump came in the BCS Standings, where the Cardinals moved from 16th to 10th, which even surprised head coach Charlie Strong.
"Well, I guess a lot of people had a chance to watch that game and they saw a football team that is resilient and a football team that can come from behind and just play hard," said Strong. "It is good for our players, and I tell them all the time, anything that happens with this football program is because of what you have done and, when you let the outside look in and see how hard you are playing and just what you are bringing to this University, it is really great."
The Cardinals have made a habit of battling back this season. Louisville has trailed in five-straight games, but has found a way to win every close game. In the first two seasons of the Strong's regime, the Cardinals were 3-9 in games decided by seven points or less. This year, the tables have turned, and the Cardinals are winning the close games. Louisville is 5-0 this year in games decided by a touchdown or less and has won its last two games by a total of five points.
"I would like to see us put together a 60-minute game and we have not been able to do that," said Strong, who is now 22-12 in three seasons at Louisville. "We have played well in spurts and, if you watch us offensively, we have been able to take the ball, in most games that we have played, and go score with the opening drive. And defensively, we end up giving up a score. You would like to see us put together a complete game - offense, defense, and then the kicking game."
Despite being a relatively young football team, the Cardinals have developed a quiet confidence that they can win any game no matter what the score is or how much time is on the clock. Louisville scored with1:35 on the clock to win 27-25 over South Florida on Oct. 20. Louisville trailed 25-21 with 3:09 to play, but Teddy Bridgewater directed a 75-yard drive for the win, but still needed the defense to make a play in the final seconds.
"That goes back to just the confidence of the team," said Strong. "They believe in one another. When you look at our offense; when you have a quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater and you have the receivers like Andrell (Smith), DeVante (Parker), and you look at (Damian) Copeland; we have players that can make plays. On defense, just go out and get a stop, get the ball back for our offense and we know that our guys on defense feel that they know if they get the ball in our offense's hands, then we have a chance to win the football game."
However, Strong would love to see his undefeated team step on the gas pedal and not let up until the final horn. If the Cardinals can do that this week, Louisville will be 9-0 for the first time in school history. But until that time, the Cardinals are enjoying the ride.