Louisville finally earned their first signature win in the Steve Kragthorpe era as they knocked off 16th-ranked South Florida 24-20. All of a sudden they are unexpectedly back in the race for the Big East championship as they improved their overall record to 5-2, while improving to 1-1 in conference play.
The win did a lot. The program has been on life support since we lost to Syracuse last year, and this win just revived the program. The players and coaches are starting to believe in themselves, the fans are starting to back the team again (as sad as that is), and there's actually a little buzz around town about UofL for the first time since we lost to Kentucky last year.
Hunter Cantwell looked solid as he completed 12 passes on 21 attempts for 212 yards, as well as two touchdowns and one interception. He connected with wide receiver Scott Long five times for 134 yards and both touchdowns. The running game was decent, as Victor Anderson rushed 18 times for 64 yards and Brock Bolen racked up 47 yards.
But as good as it feels to have beaten a ranked team for the first time since the Orange Bowl in January of 2007, we got a lot of help from South Florida.
USF quarterback Matt Grothe was sacked a season-high five times yesterday for a total loss of 27 yards, but he still completed 30 of 40 for 344 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions, one of them coming late in the fourth quarter, which allowed UofL to run out the clock.
South Florida had 14 penalties for 109 total yards, while the UofL defense held South Florida to just eight yards rushing. Ouch. I could almost hear Jim Leavitt screaming from my home in St. Matthews.
USF did not play like the pride of the Big East yesterday. They looked as vulnerable as the rest of the conference has all season. They looked boring and weak, and they didn't play like they wanted to win. Still, they almost came back, so we have a lot of work to do before we've proven ourselves.
On one hand, it's good that we tend to beat up on each other all season because it seems to help our top teams come bowl time, but on the other hand, we're not even top-heavy this year. We now have one ranked team left, which is still South Florida, and they're hanging on by a thread as it is.
Nonetheless, UofL should be bowl eligible this season between Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, West Virginia, and Rutgers. I hope I'm not jinxing the team, which I don't believe in anyway, but we're sitting in a good position now.
I believe that, at this point, we will finish the season 8-4. We should be able to beat Syracuse and Rutgers. Having West Virginia at home while they seem to be having a bit of a down season helps. Cincinnati being at home helps too. We haven't lost to them in years. Pittsburgh at Heinz Field seems to be our toughest test left in the regular season.
With that being said, I would be extremely pleased to finish the regular season 8-4.