University of Louisville football notebook

A weekly look at some notes surrounding the University of Louisville football program as the Cardinals take a 3-0 mark on the road to Florida International.

FIU OFFNSE SOLID BUT NO HILTON

University of Louisville defensive coordinator Vance Bedford didn't mind telling folks that he's "thrilled" that his team doesn't have to game plan to stop T.Y. Hilton, who hurt the Cardinals in last year's 24-17 loss to Florida International.

"I'm thrilled at that," Bedford said with a big smile. "Last time I check, I think he's starting in the National Football League, so that's how good he was.

"But they still have some good players. They have some shifty guys."

But there's still no Hilton. He torched the Cardinals for 201 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns last season in Louisville.

Florida International is averaging 29 points and 420 total yards of offense through three games this season.

"They actually beat us on two big plays— a 74-yard pass and an 83-yard pass," U of L coach Charlie Strong said. "They return eight starters on offense. Their quarterback, (Jake) Medlock, is playing very well right now and hasn't thrown an interception. They have a really good running game led by (Darian) Mallary and (Kedrick) Rhodes. Both of those backs are doing a very good of carrying the football.

". . . So when you look at them offensively, they're very multiple. It's a scheme where they're going to run the read play. The quarterback does a good job of running the football and he also does a good job of throwing the football. It's so critical and important that defensively, we play within our scheme. We have to make sure that we play gap sound and take care of the responsibilities."

RUNNING GAME CAN GET BETTER

One of the bright spots for the U of L team through three games is the running game, which is averaging 177.7 yards a game.

The Cardinals have gained 533 yards on 126 carries and have two backs carrying the load. Senorise Perry has carried 51 times for 266 yards and three touchdowns, while Jeremy Wright has carried 52 times for 262 yards and four TDs.

But senior center Mario Benavides said the rushing attack "will get better."

"I was part of a line two years ago that led the league in rushing yards and sacks allowed," Benavides said. "We want to be that and we're working for that. It's been a good start but we can get better, no question."

DON'T JINX IT, BUT TURNOVERS ARE DOWN

The U of L offensive coaches stressed all preseason that the offense needed to keep the turnovers down this season and so far, so good.

The Cardinals have only turned the ball over two times – both fumbles – after Adrian Bushell fumbled the kickoff in the fourth quarter last week in the 39-34 victory over North Carolina.

"We need to continue that," U of L coach Charlie Strong said.

U of L quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hasn't thrown an interception yet this season. He has gone 88 consecutive passes without a pick.

The Cardinals have run 220 plays and are tied for the lead nationally with no interceptions and ranked No. 16 with just two turnovers.

The defense has forced six turnovers in three games.

SMITH NOW HAS THREE CATCHES

Defensive end Marcus Smith has had his hands on the ball a lot during the first three weeks of the season for the Cardinals.

Smith caught two-point conversions from Will Stein in each of the first two games of the season. He caught another pass on an attempted two-point conversion against North Carolina but was tackled short of the goal line.

"I like it," Smith said, smiling, about his role on the extra-point team.

A former quarterback in high school, Smith's easiest catch of the season was an interception against the Tar Heels. Quarterback Bryn Renner rolled left on the second possession and attempted a screen pass.

The ball went right to Smith.

"The quarterback threw it right too me," Smith said. "I tried to take off with that one but those big guys (offensive linemen) but a stop to that."

You can expect the Cardinals to still look to attempt a two-point conversion at some point during the Florida International game.

A LEARNING PROCESS FOR CARDS

There was a lot made of last week's near collapse against North Carolina when the Cardinals gave up 20 points in the fourth quarter but hung on 39-34.

Strong reminded folks several times this week that "we're still dealing with a lot of young" players on the roster with mainly underclassmen playing.

Bridgewater said the Cardinals are doing their best to learn.

"We learn we need to do something else each week," he said. "We have to learn how to finish and we know that. At first, we had to come out and learn how to put people away from the start and now we have to learn how to finish.

"We'll get there. We just have to finish people off."

JOHNSON MAKES MEMORABLE PLAY

Andrew Johnson's game-saving poke of the ball out of the North Carolina wide receiver Erik Highsmith's hands last week is something he won't soon forget.

Several players joked around with Johnson this week that he was the "big-man on campus" because other students had been showing him a lot of love.

Johnson said he's not going to forget it. The play happened on fourth-and-four from the 4-yard-line and saved a go-ahead touchdown.

It's a play that I will always remember and the city will always remember," Johnson said. "It will also give me great motivation (for Saturday's game)."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Offensive lineman Alex Kupper on last week's performance by the Cardinals in the 39-34 victory over North Carolina:

"If we play like we did in the first half, we can play with anybody in the country and we firmly believe that," Kupper said. "But there's always two sides to the coin. If we play like we did in the second half, we can lose to anybody in the country."


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