You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who expected Louisville to be preparing for its ninth game of the season with hopes of having a winning record for the first time in 2015.
Preseason expectations varied for Bobby Petrino's team, due primarily to the multitude of departures to the National Football League and questions surrounding the potential starting quarterback. However, despite the need to fill key positions at multiple spots on the field, all expectations had the Cardinals better than 4-4 after week eight.
Louisville, picked to finish third in the ACC Atlantic race by conference media, opened 2015 with three consecutive losses - Auburn, Houston and Clemson - not collecting its first win until hosting FCS foe Samford. Since then, U of L has added victories a home win against Boston College and a pair of road victories against NC State and Wake Forest, while also falling at Florida State.
The 20-19 win at Wake Forest on Friday night lifted U of L's overall record to .500 for the first time this season.
"We're battling away," Petrino after the win. "We have to get better in practice this week. We know every game is going to be a tough fourth quarter win, so we have to work hard to stay in good condition. We have to get better offensively, become more efficient. Score when you get chances, make plays when you get chances. We are a work in progress."
While not seeing a losing record next to your team in the league standings helps morale, the focus remains on improving each week and the upcoming opponent.
"It feels good," said linebacker Keith Kelsey about improving to .500. "Now we have to focus on Syracuse and try to get this next win."
The Cardinals will play its next to games at home, Saturday versus Syracuse and the following weekend against Virginia, before finishing the season with road trips to PIttsburgh and in-state rival Kentucky.
"We want to win the rest of these games," said Kelsey.
"I feel like we are getting better week," he continued. "More guys are stepping up and making plays, so I feel like we are getting better every week."