Day After: Cards win conference opener

The 8th-ranked University of Louisville dominated the first half of their AAC opener at Temple on Saturday, but struggled to maintain any consistency during the second half. Cardinal Authority takes a look back at U of L's 30-7 victory at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The University of Louisville took it's first step to securing the American Athletic Conference automatic bid to a BCS bowl by defeating the host Temple Owls 30-7 on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

If the Cardinals hope to hold on to that goal, they will need to perform better throughout the remaining conference slate.

OFFENSE

It was a tale of two halves for the Cardinals offense.

Observers witnessed the high-powered, multi-threat attack during the first two quarters, as the unit racked up 325 yards en route to a 24-0 halftime advantage. Teddy Bridgewater was nearly perfect before the break, completing 15 of 17 for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The ground attack of Senorise Perry, Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer was running with authority.

After scoring on all four of thier first half possessions, the U of L offense never touched the end zone in the second half. Two punts and a pair of field goals were all the Cardinals were able to muster during the final 30 minutes of play.

Bridgewater, who connected with 10 different receivers in the game, completed 10 of 18 for 119 yards during the second half.

"We came out and we dominated the first half but we kind of stalled in the second half," said Bridgewater. "That's where we played down to our opponent's level but at the end of the day the only thing that matters is getting the win."

"Offensively, we never got in rhythm," said head coach Charlie Strong, who notched his 30th career victory. "We ended up scoring a couple of field goals but look at the first half when we were able to drive the ball and make stops. We know we need to improve."

DEFENSE

While the defense was within a minute of posting a second consecutive shutout, it appeared that the squad struggled at times against the Owls. However, a closer look at the numbers indicates that they were close to reaching their goals.

The defense set pregame goals of attaining five sacks, three turnovers, and a shutout against Temple and were close to reaching each. The defense registered four sacks, two turnovers and a late punt block deep in Louisville territory enabled the Owls to get on the scoreboard.

The Owls were held to 255 yards of total offense and an impressive 1.7 yards per carry average. Temple was able to muster a handful of big plays in the passing game and averaged 15.9 yards per completion.

"It is a little frustrating to have two straight shutouts coming into this game and then giving up a touchdown at the end of the game," said defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin. "Since we came up short on some of our goals this week, we have to make them our priority for the game against Rutgers and keep moving forward from there."

SPECIAL TEAMS

Marcus Smith blocked field goal in the second quarter and John Wallace converted three field goals to highlight the special teams play against Temple. However, a blocked punt, two sizeable kickoff returns by the Owls and a head-scratching decision to field a punt inside the 5-yard line were clear indicators that there is still plenty of improvement needed.

OVERALL

The Cardinals got off the bus at Lincoln Financial Field and immediately (and easily) cruised to a comfortable first half lead. Then the team went into cruise control and were outscored 7-6 in the second half.

Reason to panic? Not at all, but let's hope the second half of play will serve as a wake up call for the Cardinals that they cannot rest on their press clippings and expectations to succeed.

"We are pleased that we got the win, but we could have played better than what we played," Strong said. "Sometimes you like a game like this so the guys know when you feel like you're such a heavy favorite and don't go out and perform up to that level. It's good for them to understand that whenever you play you have to go play your best. It doesn't matter who you play."

The 8th-ranked Cardinals will have a short week to prepare for it's home contest against conference rival Rutgers. The two will meet on Thursday night at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for an ESPN televised contest.


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