Cards can win C-USA title outright vs. red-hot UC

No. 8 Louisville (8-1, 6-0) has a chance to win their third Conference USA championship and bragging rights this Saturday against red-hot Cincinnati (6-4, 5-2).

With a win over red-hot Cincinnati this Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, No. 8 Louisville will claim the 2004 Conference USA championship outright.

"This is our championship game," Petrino said. "This is it and it should be a great game."

Cincinnati, under the direction of first-year Head Coach Mark Dantonio, enters the game against U of L having won four straight since losing to Army 48-29 on October 9. And they've done it in impressive fashion, beating Memphis, TCU, Southern Miss and South Florida by a combined 90 points.

During their impressive winning streak, which has them in second place behind U of L in the C-USA standings, the Bearcats have averaged almost 42 points per contest, while a stingy defense has held their opponents to under 17 points per game.

"Cincinnati looks really good on video," Petrino said. "Defensively, they're very fast, and they have really good defensive ends. Both of them are good players; they're very quick and active."

Andre Frazier, a 6-5, 240-pound senior end, was a second team All-C-USA selection in 2003 and currently ranks second in career sacks (21.5) at UC. Opposite Frazier is 6-4, 260-pound senior Trent Cole. Cole, a first team All-C-USA selection last season, is second nationally in tackle for loss per game (2.05). Combined, the two are a major reason why the Bearcats enjoy their current winning ways.

"They run full speed to the ball and don't make many mistakes," Petrino said. "So we're going to have to move the ball and run it at them because we're a little bigger up front. And then we're going to have to throw the ball down the field a little bit to make some plays."

To counter the Bearcats speed and athleticism on defense, U of L coach Bobby Petrino said his team will attempt to spread the field and force UC's linebackers to make plays against U of L's explosive passing attack.

"We're going to try and spread them out and make their linebackers defend the pass," Petrino said.

But while Cincinnati boasts a solid defense, it's the offense, led by senior quarterback Gino Guidugli (248 ypg), running back Richard Hall (88 ypg), and wide receiver Hannibal Thomas (91 ypg), that have the Bearcats soaring entering Saturday's contest.

"Offensively, they run the ball very well and their offensive line is blocking extremely well," Petrino said. "It should be a tough, hard fought, very physical contest."

Since falling to Army in early October, the Bearcats haven't missed a beat. Petrino credits their improved play since the loss to the Black Knights to improved effort and more emphasis on running the ball.

"Their effort picked up and they seemed to reduce some of the things that they were doing," Petrino said. "They went back to running the ball and the more they did that the better Gino got."

17 seniors, including safety J.T. Haskins, will make their final appearance in a Cardinal uniform at PJCS this Saturday against Cincinnati. Haskins, a native of Lexington, Kentucky, expects to receive the Bearcats best shot.

"We expect nothing but their best effort," Haskins said. "We're completely focused on Cincinnati."

Having won five of the past six games, and the "Keg of Nails," that goes to the winner of the annual rivalry, against the Bearcats, Haskins said the game is an important one for he and his teammates.

"We want to keep it [Keg of Nails] here forever so we have bragging rights," Haskins said.

And should U of L stop Cincinnati and claim their third C-USA championship in the past five seasons, Petrino says there's still much left to play for this season for his team; a higher national ranking and bowl win.

"We've got a lot left to do," Petrino said.

INJURY UPDATE

Offensive linemen Travis Leffew and Kurt Quarterman should be ready to go for Saturday's game against the Bearcats.

Both Leffew (ribs) and Quarterman (neck) were dinged up in the second half at Houston last week. "Both of those guys should be OK," Petrino said.

Sophomore running back Kolby Smith is "100-percent," according to Petrino.

Wide Receiver/kick returner Broderick Clark has a sprained ankle and is "doubtful," against Cincinnati.


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