There were numerous moments during the University of Louisvilleâ€™s 72-0 victory over Florida International when you really did think that the trio of Cardinals running backs,Â whoâ€™d been scything their way through the Panthersâ€™ backline, coupled with Teddy Bridgewaterâ€™s masterful command of the offense, might have put three figures on the scoreboard. Yes, Florida International was that bad. Forget the team that beat Louisville two seasons ago, or lost by a touchdown last year, this motley crew from Miami was horrid and played so. Fumbles, interceptions, broken defensive lines, you name it and add them to the charges.
As these types of games roll by for the University of Louisvilleâ€™s season with consummate ease and the one-sided triumphs begin to mount up, a real unpleasant dichotomy emerges. Yes, the schedule is an abhorrence, arguably weaker than in last yearâ€™s stumbling hollow husk of the Big East. But unlike other teams we claim are made to look better each year because of their opponents (Boise State anyone?), Louisville is actually very, very good. How good though? The real shame is we may not know until bowl season in January. Right now though, no matter how footballâ€™s cognoscenti may lay it out, Louisville is not just breezing past teams theyâ€™re expected to beat â€“ but instead absolutely blitzkrieging them.
Letâ€™s start with the obvious. Teddy Bridgewater, if not the top pick in next yearâ€™s NFL draft, then is nailed on for a top five spot. Just look back at Dominique Brownâ€™s 77-yard breakaway in the second quarter. One yard short of a touchdown, Brown was finally felled. But just before that moment, Bridgewater who had followed the play in its entirety, threw a block. (Somewhere a Jacksonville Jaguars scout probably wiped away a little drool from the side of this mouth.) The fact that heâ€™s surrounded with a corp of elite wide-receivers makes the case for his Heisman even stronger. The throws will rain and the yards will stack as the season progresses.
In a season that could prove to be a priceless statistical jewel in Cardinalsâ€™ history, a season without a single defeat, will there always be an asterix in the back of fansâ€™ minds? How much will the regret gnaw at the fact that fans never saw coach Strongâ€™s men at their zenith face some of the greater teams this year.Â How would Bridgewater have faired against an oncoming tide of Clemson orange, or the still significant ACC threats of Florida State or Virginia Tech? Or even the biggest of all, the soon to be biannual game against the behemoths at Notre Dame?
If one disadvantage of Louisvilleâ€™s current schedule is being on the receiving end of backhanded compliments then perhaps another one worth considering is how detrimental it might prove toward the end of the season.
Right now, the players are saying all the right things. Theyâ€™re taking each game as it comes while Strong preaches consistency and perspective. But when Louisville wins their conference (and thatâ€™s a when not if) how battle hardened will they be when they face-off against an angry SEC team likely pipped to the championship game by â€˜Bama? Yes, they beat Florida last year, but that was the most pleasant of shocks. A world champion boxer only gets so much of a workout sparring, and at some point has to face stiffer competition before he becomes soft. Come bowl season and the Cardinals may be a little too accustomed to routing opponents.
Regardless of all of this, fans of the highly-ranked, local red and black gridiron heroes should be happy to have an elite team to cheer for, the best they have had in decades. Yes, it might be hard to get yourself out of bed for a midday start thanks to the lovely chaps at ESPN, but the stadium should still be full. Louisville fans need to come out and watch their team win. Even if it is occasionally done with a running clock.
The Cardinal Truth
Saturday’s attendance of 51,586 marks the 10th-largest crowd in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium history. This is the third top-10 home crowd this season.
Under head coach Charlie Strong, Louisville is 12-3 in the month of September. The Cardinals went 5-0 in the month last year.
Louisville’s record against nonconference opponents since the 2002 season moved to 46-18.
When scoring 20 points or more in a game under the direction of Charlie Strong, the Cardinals’ record is 28-6. When holding opponents to 20 or fewer points, Louisville boasts an 18-3 mark under Strong.
The 72-0 victory over FIU marked the third shutout of the Charlie Strong tenure, the first since the 26-0 win over Connecticut in 2010.
Louisville’s defense limited FIU to just 33 yards of offense in the first half, the lowest output in the opening half since Grambling State had -12 yards on Sept. 9, 2000.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-TribuneÂ