GAME NINE: Louisville at UConn

Louisville visits Connecticut for a Friday night American Athletic Conference contest. The Cardinals look to remain perfect on the road this season. Cardinal Authority has this preview.

Corey Goodlett Cardinal Authority - UL UConn preview Who: No. 20 Louisville (7-1) at Connecticut (0-7)

When: Friday at 8:30 p.m.

Where: Rentschler Field (Storrs, Conn.)

Series History: Louisville leads 5-4. Last meeting: 2012, 23-20 (UConn)

About each team

** Coming off of a bye week, No. 20 Louisville will look to pick up their second consecutive win when they travel to Storrs, Conn. on Friday night. The Cardinals handled South Florida 34-3 in their last outing, putting them back on the winning track after suffering their first loss of the season on Oct. 18 to Central Florida. Louisville ranks 20 in both the BCS and Associated Press polls, and comes in at 16 in the Coaches Poll.

** Also coming off of a bye week, Connecticut is 0-7 on the season, with their latest defeat being a 62-17 drubbing at the hands of No. 23 Central Florida. The team has struggled mightily in 2013, losing all but two of their games by double-digits, including a 33-18 home loss to Towson to open the season on Aug. 29.

** Louisville head coach Charlie Strong holds a 32-15 career record after the Cardinals‘ latest win. Strong has had the Cardinals bowl-eligible in each of his first four seasons heading the program.

** UConn will be coached on Friday night by T.J. Weist. After the firing of former head coach Paul Pasqualoni in late September, Weist was named interim head coach. Serving as the Huskies' interim leader is Weist's first opportunity as a head coach, although he has accumulated 25 years of experience as an assistant. Weist assistant career includes stops at, among others, Alabama, Michigan, Indiana, and Western Kentucky. Most recently, he coached wide receivers at Cincinnati last season and served as UConn's offensive coordinator this year before taking the interim head job.

Inside the numbers

315 - All-purpose yards for Louisville running back Dominique Brown in the Cardinals' last two games. Brown's effectiveness of late has placed him firmly atop the team's three-man running back rotation.

12 - Losses in the last 14 games for UConn. The slide started with an Oct. 6, 2012 loss to Rutgers. Their latest win, ironically, is last season's triple-overtime victory over Louisville.

8 - Cardinal receivers have caught touchdown passes in 2013 (Copeland, Parker, Rogers, Christian, De La Cruz, Clark, Brown, and Harris).

117 - Out of 123 teams, the Huskies are the NCAA's seventh-worst unit in terms of total offense- averaging 293 yards-per-game.

10 - Interceptions this season by Louisville's defense. The only games in which the Cardinals didn't snag a pass from the opposing quarterback: Ohio in the season-opener and their 72-0 blowout of Florida International.

103 - Combined points surrendered by UConn in their last two games (against Cincinnati and UCF). Louisville has allowed just 82 all season.

69 - Louisville tight end Gerald Christian's 69-yard touchdown reception against South Florida is the team's second longest play from scrimmage this season. Behind only Dominique Brown's 77-yard run against Florida International.

17 - Of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's 23 touchdown passes this season have come at home, in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Bridgewater has thrown for six scores in the Cardinals' three 2013 road games.

What to watch for

-- As has been a topic of discussion for most of the season, style points will once again be on the minds of Cardinal fans when the team takes on the Huskies. Central Florida, who handed Louisville its first and only loss of the season three weeks ago, looked dominant in their meeting with UConn on Oct. 26. The Knights racked up 527 yards of offense in the game, 351 coming through the air, as UCF quarterback Blake Bortles threw four touchdowns and no picks. Outdoing the Knights could help in terms of national perception.

-- Will Louisville running back Dominique Brown continue his hot streak? So far, the junior has averaged 6.5 yards-per-carry on the season, and an outstanding 7.1 in his last two games. To go along with his physical style of ball-carrying, Brown has also made a difference in the passing game, catching nine passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in the two-game span, and providing solid pass protection.

-- UConn junior running back Lyle McCombs could be due for a big game. McCombs is a streaky runner with the potential to have a big game any time out. In last year's meeting with Louisville, the 5-foot-8, 169-pounder picked up 133 rushing yards, and caught two passes for 32. McCombs rushed for 1,151 yards as a freshman in 2011, and 860 yards last year, but has slumped this year- eclipsing the 100-yard mark just once (a monster, 164-yard outing against South Florida). -- As Cardinal Authority's Michael McCammon reported on Thursday, Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker is finally nearing 100 percent after missing one game (vs. Rutgers) and being marginally used in two others (vs. UCF, at USF) due to a right shoulder injury. In Parker's semi-absence, the Cardinals have gotten big contributions from Eli Rogers and Damian Copeland, but with Parker returning to full strength, will he assume his usual role as Teddy Bridgewater's top target?

Keys to the game

-- Key for Louisville's offense will be finishing drives with touchdowns instead of field goals. Against South Florida, the Cardinals had two drives halted within the USF 2-yard line and the team settled for field goals. If the Cardinals want to take control early, punching the ball across the goal line is a must. One positive for the Cardinals is the reliability of their kicker if the team needs to boot it from close range. John Wallace, a sophomore, is 26 of 28 inside 40 yards for his career.

-- Connecticut's main focus will be finding ways to move the ball against the vaunted Louisville defense. The Huskies' offensive numbers are far from pretty- the team averages an AAC-worst 76.7 rushing yards per contest, and ranks 119th nationally in average points per game at 16.4. Louisville is the nation's No. 2 defense in both rushing and scoring. -- Louisville will look to protect quarterback Teddy Bridgewater better this week than they did against South Florida. The Bulls were able to bring down Bridgewater five times on the afternoon, and were able to pressure him several others. USF linebacker DeDe Lattimore led the Bulls' charge, sacking Bridgewater twice and hurrying countless throws via blitzes.

-- The Cardinals will need to establish Dominique Brown early to optimize their chance for success against UConn. In Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's balanced, NFL-style offense, a solid rushing performance opens up a host of play-calling options that will allow for Bridgewater to spread the defense. Look for UofL to ride the coattails of Brown's recent effectiveness into some exciting pass plays.

Final word

Louisville's bid for an undefeated season was dashed three weeks ago when the team fell at home to UCF. Admittedly, the loss still stings to the Cardinal coaches and players. But according to head coach Charlie Strong, the loss hasn't made the season a complete waste.

"I still say there is a lot of football left," Strong said. "It's week-by-week, everyone thought we were going to run the table. Three weeks ago, everyone would have felt like that. You have to play and see what happens."

Strong was insistent at his Monday press conference that the Cardinals are focused on getting a win against Connecticut, and are not worried about any other factor that could affect their future.

"It's important we take care of our business. We can't worry about someone else. You are looking down the road to someone else and you get slapped in the face."

Kickoff between the Cardinals and Huskies is set for 8:30 p.m. The came will be televised via ESPN.

Staff predictions

Jody Demling: Louisville covers for the second straight week. Cardinals win 41-10.

Michael McCammon: The Cardinals roll offensively and the defense creates havoc. Louisville wins 48-13.

Corey Goodlett: Louisville has played some bad teams this year, UConn is one of the worst. Cards win it 41-7.


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