No. 19 Cards seeking 1st Senior Day win in 3 years

Louisville’s seniors have a simple reason for wanting to win

Saturday’s home finale over Connecticut.

It hasn’t been done in a while.

A victory would be the seniors’ first in three tries under coach

Charlie Strong. The No. 19 Cardinals (9-1, 4-1 Big East) can also

achieve double-digit victories for the fourth time in school

history, all since 2001.

Staying within reach of league-leading Rutgers entering next

Thursday’s showdown in New Jersey adds more motivation for one of

the nation’s smallest senior classes. Louisville has 13 overall and

just 10 on scholarship, and half of them began their careers as

walk-ons.

Since going 4-8 as freshmen they’ve had three straight winning

seasons and seek the school’s second BCS bowl bid along with a

successful home send-off.

Though Strong’s staff didn’t recruit this group, he recognizes

the groundwork they’ve laid for younger classes.

”When we came in, we talked about our foundation,” Strong

said. ”I just feel this group is a part of us because they’ve been

with us for three years and they have been a part of watching this

program build. You cannot ask for a stronger group of seniors with

the leadership they have provided this season.”

Left tackle Alex Kupper said Strong’s philosophy that the

hardest workers would earn playing time allowed his classmates to

seize their opportunity. He earned his scholarship after a year and

a half and has started every game the past two seasons, playing at

each position along the offensive line.

”The guys that stuck around, that’s just what we’re bred for,”

Kupper said. ”We wanted to fight through it. We wanted to see it

turn around and, ultimately, it has.”

The seniors’ steadiness, coupled with young stars such as

quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, sprung Louisville to a 9-0 start

before falling 45-26 at Syracuse on Nov. 10. The loss ended

Louisville’s hopes of a perfect season but not its preseason goal

of a Big East championship and accompanying BCS berth in the Orange

Bowl.

A win over Connecticut (4-6, 1-4) – which needs two wins to

become bowl eligible – would set up a de facto conference title

game at Rutgers just five days later.

”There’s still more to go get,” said wide receiver Scott

Radcliff, who earned his scholarship after three years as a

walk-on. ”Hopefully we can get to that Orange Bowl. Just to go

there – I (would) never forget that.”

Kupper wants his class to be remembered for returning the

program to the heights of the 2006 season that ended with a 24-13

Orange Bowl win against Wake Forest.

”That team was the team,” the Louisville native said. ”To be

in that position, to be maybe the team that generations behind us

talk about, that’s really special.”

Saturday’s game will be played amid rumors that Louisville and

Connecticut are the leading candidates to replace Maryland in the

Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terrapins and Rutgers announced

earlier this week that they will join the Big Ten in 2014.

The Cardinals will be without leading rusher Senorise Perry, who

tore his right ACL against Syracuse and is out for the remainder of

the season. Jeremy Wright will pick up additional carries after

previously splitting the feature back role with Perry. Freshman

Corvin Lamb will spell Wright against Connecticut’s 11th-ranked

rushing defense (107.6 yards per game).

Both teams are coming off bye weeks and the Huskies’ mood is

looking up after getting their first Big East win two weeks ago

against Pittsburgh. A postseason game is only possible by knocking

off the ranked Cardinals on Saturday and Cincinnati next week.

”It’s the only motivation we have at this point,” tight end

Ryan Griffin said. ”We’re holding on and we’re a desperate team.

We need these last two wins to get to a bowl and make this season a

success.”