Oct. 30, 2012
INTERVIEWS: Shawn ~nbsp>Watson | Mario ~nbsp>Benavides | Teddy ~nbsp>Bridgewater
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The University of Louisville football team might have found its comfort zone on offense, and it might come from the friendly confines of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
The Cardinals scored 30 or more points at home for the fourth time in five games in a 34-31 come-from-behind-win over conference foe Cincinnati last Friday night in front of a raucous crowd and a national audience.
The Cardinals put together one of their best offensive performances of the season in recording 524 yards of total offense, battling back from a 24-14 deficit in the third quarter move to move their record to 8-0 overall, 3-0 in the BIG EAST.
"We didn't start that game like a ball of fire," said offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. "I didn't like our start and none of the players did either. We had two dropped passes to get things rolling and Teddy (Bridgewater) had to get back in rhythm. He struggled, but the good thing is, we were able to fight back. We were physical in the run game. We can't start slow. The slow start I'm not happy with, but happy with the way we ended the game."
Big plays got the Cardinals back into the discussion against Cincinnati, and the last five games for that fact, as the Cardinals have had to come back in each of the last five victories. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and wide receiver DeVante Parker have been the two biggest reasons, but head coach Charlie Strong thinks that confidence plays a big part in the Cardinals ability to come back and make big plays.
"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 Bridgewater and you have the receivers like Andrell (Smith), DeVante (Parker), and you look at (Damian) Copeland, we have players that can make plays. I always tell our receivers that I have yet to see a receiver take a slant or take a hitch and go score."
Parker made a juggling catch in the end zone to tie the score at 24 apiece with 11:10 to play in the game. He made the play of the game when he took a short pass and made a number of moves to go 64 yards into the end zone to give the Cardinals a 31-24 lead with 1:56 to play.
"That play reminded me of that yesterday with DeVante taking his the distance," said Strong on Monday. "But, the confidence of this team and how they believe in one another and just how they feel about one another, now they are coming together as a team, so when you have that within a football team, then the will to win, you feel like you just cannot be beat right now if we just have an opportunity to go score."
Watson could see big plays coming from Parker after seeing his continued development in practice over the last two weeks.
"I think what you saw on Friday is what he has been doing in practice," said Watson. "He has been delivering big plays in practice and he has been doing it everyday. He ended up having two really good weeks of practice. You could just sense he was coming on. He was just running really fast. He has put some real speed on film in practice. We knew he was poised to do something special."
The Cardinals have struggled to run the football in the last two games, especially last week versus Cincinnati, when they were held to 108 yards on 37 carries. If Louisville is going to continue to be the team it expects to be, it must continue to be able to run the football. However, the Cardinals face another stern test with a tough Temple team, which won its first two league games before losing its last two.
"They have a really nice scheme," said Watson. "They do some things that are different from other people. I think they do a nice job of coaching their scheme. It's different from what we have seen in our league. They have presented some new challenges scheme-wise."
The Cardinals face another challenge on Saturday, and that's history. In 94 seasons of football, the Cardinals have never been 9-0 and have a great opportunity to achieve that feat. Before this year, the Cardinals have put together back-to-back 7-6 seasons, so not many thought that this ascend could happen this quickly, but senior offensive tackle Alex Kupper knew it might be possible.
"At the time, it was kind of like a long shot, but with hard work anything is possible. You just have to have that frame of mind. Still, where we've come from and where we are now, we just have to keep building."