This Saturday against South Florida the Cardinals will attempt to do something they haven't done since 2006 – win back to back Big East conference games.
Playing without starting quarterback Adam Froman and leading rusher Bilal Powell, the Cardinals put together a "total team effort" to upset the Orange. Justin Burke threw for 143 yards and two touchdowns, while redshirt freshman running back Jeremy Wright rushed for 98 yards and two scores.
"It was an exciting win for us," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said Monday of his team's win over the Orange. "It was our first [Big East] road win in 11 tries and we played very well as a football team. For us to be without two key players and win on the road against a good Syracuse football team is really great for our program."
Wright, who carried 19 times, was named Big East Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Orange.
"It was a total team effort, but there were some really good individual efforts," Strong said. "You talk about Jeremy Wright, who was the [Big East offensive] Player of the Week. Jeremy ran very hard in place of Bilal Powell. Jeremy understood that he had to play well because we lost Bilal. We rotated three backs and we were able to keep him fresh and Jeremy was able to hit some long runs on them."
Louisville's defense also turned in another solid effort. Since allowing 35 points to Cincinnati in the Big East opener, the Cardinals have held their last three league foes to 13 points per game. Redshirt freshman safety Hakeem Smith led the UofL defense with 13 tackles against the Orange and was named to the Big East honor roll this week.
"He understands the system and his role," Strong said. "He plays within himself and he knows the defense pretty well."
The Cardinals have also been getting solid play on the defensive front from Brandon Dunn, a true freshman who made his second start against Syracuse. Dunn has recorded six tackles in the past two games, including three against Syracuse.
"He has tremendous strength and quickness," Strong said. "He does a good job maintaining his gap and he plays hard. He has relentless effort and finds the ball. He's a big body and he's hard for people to move. He's really playing well against the run."
Now, Louisville will ready for a key Big East game at PJCS vs. USF. Both Louisville and USF enter Saturday's noon contest 2-2 in league play and a win would make both teams bowl eligible.
"We're back home against South Florida, who is an outstanding football team," Strong said. "Their quarterback can beat you with his feet and throw the ball well enough to beat you. It's going to be critical that we play well and as a football team."
While South Florida's strength rests with a defense that ranks 29th nationally in total defense, the Bulls have capable offensive weapons in quarterback B.J. Daniels and running back Mo Planchar. Daniels, who has more than 1,000 rushing yards in his career, has completed 58 percent of his throws for 1,238 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Planchar has rushed for 498 yards this season, including 135 yards in USF's last game against Rutgers.
"They're running game starts with their quarterback and Plancher had over 100 yards against Rutgers," Strong said. "It's critical that you stop the run."
The big question again this week for Cardinals: Will Powell and Froman play against South Florida? Strong didn't offer much insight Monday.
"No update at all on Powell or Froman, we just don't know where they are right now," Strong said.
Strong also didn't know whether or not starting center Mario Benavides will be available this week against USF. Benavides left Saturday's game against Syracuse with an apparent leg injury.
"Our offense starts with our offensive line," Strong said. "It's a physical offensive line and they did a really good job blocking and protecting the quarterback.. Our backs were able to find the holes and that's why we were able to play so well."
Strong said punter Josh Blaser has an ankle injury that kept him on the sideline against Syracuse. Chris Philpott filled in for Blaser against the Orange, but Strong said Blaser would reclaim his job when he's full strength.