Dec. 19, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky.- The University of Louisville football team has faced many challenges en route to an 11-1 season, but the biggest obstacle might come in the Russell Athletic Bowl, when the Cardinals take on 25th-ranked Miami on Saturday, Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla.
With all the talk about the schedule this year, the Cardinals will face their second-consecutive ranked opponent in the Hurricanes, who enter the bowl at 9-3 overall and, at one point this season, were ranked as high as seventh in the country.
The Hurricanes possess one of the top offenses in the nation, with Stephen Morris at quarterback and the speed of Stacy Colley and Allen Hurns at the wide receiver position.
But offensive coordinator Shawn Watson isn't worried about Miami's potent attack. his attention is on his own offense and the talented Hurricane defense.
"They are really talented on defense," Watson said after Wednesday's practice. "They have talented football players playing all across the board. They know their scheme. I'm impressed with their team speed. They are similar to Florida with the athletes they are playing with, but I like their scheme."
The Hurricanes have given up yards on the defensive side of the football, but Watson knows his offense will be in for a big challenge against an athletic defense. Miami is allowing only an average of 233.4 yards passing through 12 games and has 18 interceptions as a unit.
"They are talented in the secondary," Watson said. "They make plays on the football and they have great team speed and it's going to be a challenge for our offense."
To compliment Miami's tough passing defense, the Cardinals can compete because they have one of the nation's top passing offenses with the weapons of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, running back Dominique Brown, and wide receivers DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland.
Bridgewater has put together two of the best seasons in school history, throwing for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns last year and 3,523 yards and 28 touchdowns. He is coming off a three-touchdown performance against Cincinnati in a 31-24 overtime win over the Bearcats.
"There is a lot of talent over here on the offensive side of the ball," Watson said. "We have developed an offense. We raised these kids. Last year, our defense was growing, so the offense had to take on a larger role. This year, we have done it as a team."
One of those talented players Watson was referring to is Parker, who is one of the best big-play wide receivers in the nation. Averaging 18.3 yards per catch for his career, the Ballard High product has 14 career scores of 20 or more yards and is enjoying his best season. Parker has 46 catches for 743 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He missed one game because of a shoulder injury and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said it took him a few weeks to fully recover.
"To me," Watson said, "he's the best receiver I've been around. He has outstanding hands and continues to develop as a route runner."
The Cardinals are going to need all their weapons on both sides of the football to tie the school record of 12 wins. The Louisville defense must slow down the potent Hurricane offensive attack, but Watson's high-scoring offense is going to have to put their track shoes on and be just as explosive if the Cardinals are going to win a bowl game for the third time in four seasons under head coach Charlie Strong.