Cards hope to send seniors out on good note

Louisville will say good-bye to 22 seniors during Saturday's home-finale at PJCS against West Virginia. The Cardinals hope to end a three-game losing streak against Pat White and the stingy Mountaineers.

It's been a rough month for Steve Kragthorpe's Cardinals. Three weeks ago, Louisville dropped a 28-21 decision on the road at Syracuse. That loss to the Orange started the Cardinals late season nose-dive, who fell to Pittsburgh (41-7) and Cincinnati (28-20) the past two weeks.

Now, rival West Virginia comes to town. The Mountaineers own a 7-2 record against the Cardinals and have won two of three meetings since the Cardinals joined the Big East in 2005.

"I think it's a big game for both of us," Kragthorpe said. "We want to get back on the winning side of the ledger and certainly West Virginia wants to keep themselves in the (Big East) championship race. I think it's a huge game for both of us – no doubt."

While West Virginia attempts to win its second straight Big East title, the Cardinals are fighting for their bowl lives. If the Cardinals still harbor post-season hopes, they must win against the Mountaineers – and probably next week at red-hot Rutgers too.

"I feel like we've got to win the last two games to get into a bowl," Kragthorpe said. "We want to take the subjectivity out of it and win the last two games. We want to play in a bowl game. We'd get extra practice time, momentum, more national exposure from a recruiting standpoint. So I think it's very important that we play in a bowl game."

If Louisville is going to beat both West Virginia and Rutgers the Cardinals will have to eliminate the self-inflicted mistakes that have cost them in five losses this season. During their current three-game losing streak, Louisville has committed nine turnovers and 19 penalties for 168 yards. That's simply too many mistakes for a team with little margin for error.

"We've just continued to emphasize things that help you win football games," Kragthorpe said. "We've got to make sure we get the corrections made and do that."

West Virginia will be a huge challenge. The Mountaineers boast one of the nation's top rushing attacks led by Pat White and Noel Devine and have been stout on defense. West Virginia is allowing just 303 yards and 16 points.

"It's a huge challenge for us," Kragthorpe said. "I think what gets lost in the West Virginia story is how well they're playing on defense. Certainly Pat is a great player and a dynamic guy with the ball in his hands but people don't talk about their defense that much."

The Mountaineers have also proven they can force turnovers and have made nine interceptions this season – three by defensive back Morty Ivy.

"They're very aggressive and sound schematically," said Kragthorpe. "They give you a lot of different looks and they do an excellent job. They're probably more multiple in terms of coverage schemes than they have been the last couple of years. They're good at rushing the passer – they'll blitz us from a lot of different angels."

One senior who will play his final game at PJCS Saturday is starting center Eric Wood. Wood will make his 47th consecutive start and hopes to end his home career on a positive note with a win over the Mountaineers.

"With great coaches and great players walking around this building everyday there's no reason not to expect great things out of us," Wood said. "The circumstances over the last couple years are unfortunate….players we've lost – dismissals, transfers, injuries – it's been tough. The expectations aren't going to sink so it's pressure on the players and coaches to keep the winning tradition alive. We haven't necessarily done that to the fullest the last couple of years but I expect it to be back up there."

UofL is promoting Saturday's game as another "Blackout." Fans are encouraged to wear black to the stadium for the game.

"It's our last home game of the season and we want to finish on a positive note," Kragthorpe said. "We're going to honor our seniors before the game and hopefully we'll have a great crowd."


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