The Cardinals, 5-5 on the season, are coming off a disappointing 24-21 overtime loss to South Florida last week. Now, Louisville's seniors need one win in their last two games to become bowl eligible and play in a bowl game for the first time in their careers.
"It's so important to get these guys to a bowl game," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "All of our seniors have played well this season. Our senior class has stepped up and played well and that's why we've had the season that we've had to this point."
Louisville felt like they gave one away last Saturday against South Florida. The Cardinals had several opportunities to knock out the Bulls, but ultimately couldn't get an inch on fourth down in overtime. Afterwards, Strong's players reacted emotionally to the loss. Strong called it a "turning point," for his program.
"What been great about this group of seniors is anytime you take over a program there some resistance, but there was no resistance from the seniors," Strong said. "They welcomed the coaching staff right away and went to work right away. It was so important for them to get to a bowl game that they have done everything we've asked them."
Louisville squares off against West Virginia at noon. They'll conclude Strong's first season next Friday on the road against Rutgers.
Cardinals to Say Goodbye to 24 SeniorsThe Cardinals will play their final home game of the season, which will be the final game for the 2010 senior class. Louisville has a total of 24 senior who will play their fi nal home game when Louisville takes on West Virginia. The 2010 senior class owns a 20-26 record, and Louisville has dropped its last two senior days. Louisville defeated Rutgers 41-38 in 2007 for its last senior day win.
One More to GoFrom 1998 to 2006, the Cardinals went to nine straight bowl games, which was one of the longest streaks in the country. However, Louisville has missed out on bowls the last three years, going 15-21 over that span. However, with one more win the Cardinals would become bowl-eligible for the fi rst time since going to the Orange Bowl in 2006. The Cardinals are 6-7-1 in bowl games during their history.
Powell Closing in on School MarkSenior Bilal Powell is having a remarkable 2010 season. After missing one game with a knee injury, Powell returned to form, running for 140 yards on a career-high 31 carries. Powell has 1,207 yards on the year and needs 223 in his two fi nal two games to break the school's single-season rushing rushing of 1,429 yards by Howard Stevens during the 1971 season. Powell is tied for sixth on the school's list with Lenny Lyles, who ran for 1,207 yards in 1957. Powell's 1,207 yards is the most since Frank Moreau ran for 1,289 yards in 1999.
Senior-Laden Offensive LineThe Cardinal offensive line has been called the glue that holds the 2010 team together. Louisville has four seniors on the offensive line this year and one sophomore in Mario Benavides. Byron Stingily and Greg Tomczyk have started all 10 games at tackle, while Mark Wetterer has been the starter at guard. Two other seniors, Conrad Thomas and Josh Byrom have rotated at the guard position. Benavides has started nine games at center with Alex Kupper getting one start at the center spot. Louisville ranks 30th in the nation in sacks allowed at 1.30 per game.
Scouting West VirginiaWest Virginia ran its record to 6-3 and 2-2 in the BIG EAST Conference with a 37-10 win over Cincinnati last Saturday.
Quarterback Geno Smith threw four first-half touchdown passes before taking the air out of the football in the second half. Smith has had a solid season, throwing for 1,810 yards and 19 touchdowns, while averaging 207.8 yards per game. Senior running back Noel Devine, one of the top backs in the league, has run for 770 yards and five touchdowns this year. Wide receiver Jock Sanders is the team's leading receivers with 52 receptions for 508 yards and four scores, while Tavon Austin has 44 catches for 528 yards and five scores.
Zach Collaros of Cincinnati was under heavy pressure all afternoon by the West Virginia defense. He was sacked a total of five times.
Smith threw TD passes of 32, 10, 48 and 5 yards – two each to Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders - to build West Virginia's lead to 30-3 at halftime. In the second half, WVU went predominantly to the ground, attempting only three passes and at one point running the ball 22 straight times against a worn out Cincinnati defense.
In West Virginia's three losses this year against LSU, Syracuse and Connecticut (by a combined 14 points) the Mountaineers have turned the ball over nine times. West Virginia had two turnovers on Saturday against Cincinnati but both were inconsequential. A Smith interception thrown deep down field early in the first quarter was more like a punt, and Trey Johnson's fumble late in the game came when the outcome was already decided.
The WVU defense came up with 13 negative yardage plays against the Bearcats – five sacks and eight tackles for losses – and kept Cincinnati from converting a single third down attempt in 12 tries. Through nine games the defense shows 28 sacks and 61 tackles for losses.
The Mountaineers have one of the nastiest defenses in the country. WVU ranks fourth in the country in total defense, yielding just 253.33 yards per game. WVU is third in scoring defense (13.22 ppg) and seventh against the pass (158.44 ypg) and the run (94.89 ypg.). The Mountaineers have allowed just four teams to run for more than 100 yards in a game and no one has thrown for over 300 yards in a game.