Louisville hopes to atone against UConn

Louisville hopes to atone for a poor performance against Pittsburgh Saturday in Storrs against UConn. With two games left, the Cardinals need to win one more game to reach bowl eligibility.

Louisville will head to UConn this weekend seeking redemption.

The Cardinals are still smarting from an ugly 21-14 loss at home last Saturday to Pittsburgh that cost them a first place tie with Cincinnati.

Charlie Strong said his players didn't prepare properly for the Panthers, which explained their disappointing performance on Senior Day. Strong said his players lacked focus and were distracted by outside influences following their big win at West Virginia.

Brandon Dunn, a sophomore defensive tackle, admitted the Cardinals became complacent after they won their third straight game in Morgantown.

"We weren't doing the things (during practice) we were doing when we won three games in a row," said Dunn. "At the end of the day it's still a young team and we can easily lose focus."

Strong wasn't pleased with Louisville's effort in practice last week. Part of the problem, according to Dunn, was a lack of leadership.

"Nobody stepped to the front or said anything," Dunn said. "They (players) kept their mouth shut and let it happen. Me, myself, I didn't know what to say or how to approach things. As I'm growing up I have to make sure the rest of my teammates are okay."

The big question this week is if the Cardinals can quickly regain focus for the Huskies? The loss to Pitt dropped Louisville into a four-way tie for second place behind Cincinnati. And though the Cardinals fell back into the Big East pack, there's a lot at stake, including bowl eligibility, for Strong's young team against the Huskies.

"We're more focused and locked in," Dunn said. "A lot of people understand now what can happen if you don't lock in for a full week and prepare. (Sunday) was the first day of preparation and we were more locked in. Basically, we looked how we looked during our three-game winning streak."

UConn should be well prepared – and rested – for Louisville. The Huskies had last week off after beating Syracuse two weeks ago. UConn, 2-2 in the Big East, should have plenty of motivation for the Cardinals this week. Not only did the Cardinals shutout the Huskies 26-0 last season at PJHCS, but UConn needs to win 2 of their last 3 games to reach bowl eligibility.

"We're setting standards high this week," Dunn said. "We want to get to a bowl game. That's what we're stressing this whole week. We've got to get to the quarterback. I know Coach (Clint) Hurtt and Coach (Vance) Bedford are going to be stressing getting to the quarterback and stopping the run. Our whole focus this week is to do those two things."

Strong Quotes

Charlie Strong talks about the Big East race and Louisville's attempt to become bowl eligible in its final two regular season games against UConn and USF:

On the team to beat in the Big East race

"I don't know. I would like to think it's us if we just go and take care of our business. We just have to play well. If you look at where we've come from, we have made gigantic steps. Maybe we came too fast too soon. But still though, you expect to go play well. You look at teams out there – West Virginia, Pitt, anybody can still go win this league right now."

On bowl eligibility

"You look at it, and once out of the last four seasons, which was last season, we were in the same position and we were able to go get bowl eligible. Now, you're on the road for two games. If it is important enough to our guys, then they'll go get their mindset and get ready to go and try to get it done. I just think that it will be a huge step forward in this program to get to a bowl game this season when you were sitting there this season thinking how many games you could realistically go win. Now, you're going to place yourself in a position to get to a bowl game."

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