Inside U of L football: Weekly notebook

The University of Louisville football team is one of 15 undefeated teams in the country heading into Saturday's game at Pittsburgh. Here's another edition of the weekly U of L football notebook.

CARDS OPEN BIG EAST PLAY

Rutgers, South Florida and Pittsburgh have all played two Big East Conference games this season. But for Louisville, the Cardinals started the season with five consecutive non-conference games.

Now, the Cardinals start league play.

Louisville will play at Pittsburgh on Saturday at 11 a.m. and the preseason pick to win the Big East is one of three undefeated league teams, along with Cincinnati and Rutgers.

U of L coach Charlie Strong said his team needs to remain focused.

"It's very challenging to continue to stay unbeaten," Strong said. "What's key for us is to take each game week-in and week-out and don't look down the road. We have to make sure that each week it's a one-game season.

"If we make it a one-game season and our focus is there, then we're going to have a chance to continue down that road."

U of L is one of 15 teams in the country left undefeated. The Cardinals are undefeated five games into the season for the first time since 2006.

"Now, it's the real season because it is the conference season," Strong said. "Everything from here out counts. We're going to make it a one-game season. We can't lose our focus and maintain our preparation week-in and week-out."

CARDS LOOKING TO AVOID UPSET - AGAIN

Louisville hasn't fared well in the series against Pittsburgh, dropping four games in a row after last year's upset by the Panthers.

One week after upsetting West Virginia a year ago, Pittsburgh downed U of L 21-14 in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The last win by U of L in the series was a 24-17 victory during the 2007 season and the last win at Heinz Field was 2006.

"It's been a while," sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "We understand that and it's something we are trying to get done."

U of L has won seven straight regular-season games since the loss to the Panthers. Now, the Cardinals are focused on ending the losing streak.

"Traditionally, we're not very good against them, and that's one thing we have to be wary of," offensive guard Jake Smith said. "They have a good football team, they're a good defensive team, and they're a very smash-mouthed offense.

"We're definitely aware of how we played last year, and we came out a little flat. I think it was pretty obvious to everybody."

FIU GAME STILL HAUNTS OFFENSE

The Cardinals have faced some tough conditions each of the past two games, no headsets against Florida International and the downpour and flood at Southern Mississippi.

Bridgewater said at least the Cardinals "are prepared for anything."

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said the Cardinals are "excited" to be undefeated despite facing the challenges.

Watson did say the play against Southern Miss by the offense was not up to par because of the weather. But the play against Florida International is still a sore point with the U of L offensive guys.

"One thing still in all of our crawls is Florida International," he said. "We were so spotty and so inconsistent in that game.

"It's still in all of our crawls and that's what was so disappointing about the weather at Southern Miss. We wanted to get back out there.

GRAHAM WORKING HIS WAY BACK

Pittsburgh senior running back Ray Graham has come back from last year's season-ending injury to his right knee.

Graham has been solid this season for the Panthers but has said he's still not at 100 percent heading into this week's game.

"It takes some time to come all the way back, but he's doing really well now," U of L defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said. "He's come a long way.

"He's going to get back full at one point. I just don't want it to be this week."

In five games, Graham has rushed 89 times for 419 yards and four touchdowns. He's averaging 4.7 yards a carry.

BOWL ELIGIBLE?

There's still a long way to go in the season.

But the next win will make the Cardinals bowl eligible for a third straight season. It takes six wins to become bowl eligible.

U of L beat Southern Miss in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl two years ago and last season lost to N.C. State in the Belk Bowl.

ONLY GAME THIS SEASON ON GRASS

U of L will play at Heinz Field, which is a natural grass surface, and it will mark the only time the Cardinals play on grass all season.

In fact, the game will be the only regular-season game on grass.


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