The Louisville Cardinals find themselves the 16th-best team in the nation, according to USA Today, as they look forward to a bye week. The Cardinals are undefeated in their first five games, despite playing three straight close games against unranked opponents.
Louisville pulled out a victory against Southern Mississippi last Saturday in a constant downpour of rain, 21-17.
After the game, head coach Charlie Strong told C.L. Brown of the Courier Journal:
“It speaks volumes about this football team, the way they have been able to just maintain their focus. I know some games we didn’t finish the way we like to finish, but still they keep battling and battling. It’s a group of guys that’s fun to be around right now because they’re beginning to realize who they are, and just their whole attitude is beginning to change.”
Louisville will start Big East Conference play in two weeks when it goes on the road to play Pittsburgh.
The Cardinals will get an opportunity to reflect on the season and find out where they need to improve.
Let's take a look at what we know about the Louisville Cardinals after their first five games.
Louisville is able to win close games
The Cardinals have had to battle to stay undefeated. In their last three games, Louisville has won by an average of 5.3 points.
Against North Carolina, Louisville was up 36-7 at halftime. The Cardinals allowed the Tar Heels to battle back, but they were able to hold on thanks to a deflected pass on fourth down by cornerback Andrew Johnson with less than two minutes left to go in the game.
Louisville then went on the road to barely beat Florida International, 28-21.
“We just didn’t play smart,” said Strong following the FIU game via CardsandCats.com. “We didn’t execute at all tonight but we are happy to get out of here with a win.”
The Cardinals were down most of the game against a winless Southern Miss team, but they were able to weather the storm.
The ability to win close games will help Louisville as they go into conference play. Louisville is a young team and should be able to improve on mental mistakes as the season goes forward.
Louisville has a strong rushing attack
Louisville came into the season with several options at the running back position. Strong knew having options in the backfield would be a huge advantage for the Cardinals.
“If a guy gets tired, we are always going to have someone we can put in," Strong said about his backfield via UofLSports.com. "Each one of our running backs has a different ability.”
Dominique Brown was expected to get the bulk of the carries, but he hasn't played a single down due to a leg injury. Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry have both stepped up in Brown's absence.
Wright is averaging 77.8 yards a game and has rushed for five touchdowns.
Perry is averaging 91.6 yards per game on the ground and has scored five touchdowns.
Both running backs have rushed for more than 100 yards in a game twice this season. Against Kentucky, Perry and Wright dominated the game as they both went for more than 100 yards.
Teddy Bridgewater is the key to Louisville's success
Sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater came into the season with a lot of expectations, and so far, he has proven to be up for the challenge.
Bridgewater has gained 40 pounds since he joined the Cardinals two years ago and has learned how to keep composed under pressure.
Bridgewater has completed 73 percent of his passes, while throwing to 12 different receivers. He is averaging 226.8 yards per game and has thrown for eight touchdowns. He also has one rushing touchdown.
Charles Davis of FoxSports.com said of Bridgewater's season so far, “This guy has been flat out amazing. He is money and is carrying the Cardinals to a potential Big East Championship.”
Calvin Pryor is the key to Louisville's defenses success
Sophomore safety Calvin Pryor has been the most consistent player on Louisville's defense. The 6'2'', 215-pound Pryor has made several monster hits, flying around the field.
Pryor leads the Cards in tackles with 25. He also has one interception and has forced four fumbles.
Louisville has issues on defense
The biggest concern for Louisville has to be on defense. Louisville only has five sacks and two interceptions.
The Cardinals allowed UNC quarterback Bryn Renner to throw for 363 yards and five touchdowns, allowing the Tar Heels the chance to win the game late.
Last Saturday against Southern Miss, Louisville allowed the Golden Eagles to run for 224 yards. In the first half, Southern Miss was able to gain more than 170 yards on the ground.
“We were missing tackles,” Strong said after the SMU game via CardsandCats.com. “It was almost like we were just running through tackles. We didn't do a good job with tackling in the first half.”
Other notes about Louisville
* Most of Louisville's points are scored in the first half. The Cardinals are averaging 31 points a game, with an average of 20.4 in the first half.
* The Cardinals average 10.6 points in the second half and 20.4 in first half, scoring 31 points per game.
*Louisville can score once it gets inside the 20-yard line. The Cardinals are 22-of-23 in the red zone, scoring 17 touchdowns.
*Louisville has made all six field-goal attempts. John Wallace is 4-of-4 with a season-high of 43 yards. Matthew Nakatani is 2-of-2 with a long of 45 yards.