Nov. 21, 2011
||FRIDAY GAME INFORMATION
||Matchup: Louisville (6-5, 4-2) vs. USF (5-5, 1-4)
||Date/Time: Friday, Nov. 25 / 11 a.m. ET
||Site: Raymond James Stadium (65,857), Tampa, Fla.
||TV Talent: Dave Lamont (play-by-play), Ray Bentley (color)
||Radio: WHAS (840/790 WKRD); SIRIUS/XM Ch. 85
||Radio Talent: Paul Rogers (pbp), Tony Stallings (color), Doug Ormay (sidelines)
|Louisville vs. USF Notes
|SELECTED QUOTES: Charlie ~nbsp>Strong
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In a season that has seen its fair share of ups and downs, the University of Louisville football team's postseason hopes mainly will be dependent upon Friday's game at South Florida. Kick off for the Nov. 25 contest is set for 11 a.m. at Raymond James Stadium, and the game will be televised on ESPN2, with Dave Lamont (play-by-play) and Ray Bentley (color) calling the action.
Other obstacles still remain for the Cardinals to capture the BIG EAST title. The Cardinals, who are tied with Rutgers for the BIG EAST lead, also hold a half-game lead over Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Cincinnati. Louisville wins all tie-breakers with Rutgers and West Virginia, but will lose all with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, who both defeated the Cardinals. There is just one game between two two-loss teams, however -- Friday's Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia.
In short, five teams still have a chance to win the title outright, and there are countless ties that could be forged in the last seven games of the regular season.
"It is a surprise, but just look at how far we've come," Strong said of being in the mix for a BCS bowl bid. "Like I said, we're not a great team, but each week we've gotten better. Guys have worked hard. I always say this, `If you work hard - you're a very talented football team. Now, go work hard and it's going to pay off.' It is a surprise where we are right now. If you even look at the start of this season, at one point, we were 2-4 and it didn't look very good at all. Our guys (have) battled back to keep improving and getting better and better each game."
But more importantly, the Cardinals remain in position to clinch a share of the conference title this week after the Cardinals scored a 34-20 win against Connecticut in East Hartford, Conn. Louisville's formula was a ball-control offense and a stout run defense that gave the Cardinals possession for more than 38 minutes. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for 174 yards and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns, and the Cardinals received a boost on special teams by Adrian Bushell, who took the opening kickoff 100 yards for a TD to give Louisville a lead it would not relinquish.
For Louisville to even be in the conversation, the Cardinals have to take care of business during this short week of preparation. Louisville hits the road for the regular-season finale on Friday at Raymond James Stadium, which has been a house of horrors for the Cardinals since 2003.
"If you look at some of our worst defeats (against USF), I think the average score we've lost by is 21 points or more," Strong said. "It hasn't been a good venue for us to go play and we haven't played well in Tampa at all. Our players need to understand that. It's a lot of firsts this year and they understand that. Plus, you look at it too, and I don't think we've had back-to-back seven win seasons since '06. We have a chance to make a statement here if we just prepare and get focused the right way."
South Florida isn't in the conversation for a league title, but does need one more win to become bowl-eligible. The Bulls have one of the most athletic and ferocious defenses in the country. USF ranks in the top five nationally in sacks and tackles for loss and has consistently played well at home.
Louisville is 0-4 in Tampa, and most of the games haven't been even close. Louisville has lost all four meetings by an average of 21 points, which includes a 31-28 overtime decision in 2003. In 2005, the ninth-ranked Cardinals had won nine-straight games, but were embarrassed 45-14 in their first BIG EAST game.
Louisville traveled to USF in 2007 and the high-powered Cardinals offense was completely shut down. Louisville committed seven turnovers in a 55-17 loss. Louisville trailed 41-10 at the half and was never in the football game.
Massive ramifications are on the line for the Cardinals, who have battled adversity all season by playing 20 freshmen, including 11 true freshmen. Louisville can make its postseason dreams a reality with a win and some outside help. First and foremost, though, the Cardinals know their focus must remain on breaking the streak versus USF with a victory.