No. 12 Louisville set to host reeling Temple
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)
The No. 12 Cardinals (8-0, 3-0 Big East Conference) wouldn't mind history repeating itself on Saturday against visiting Temple (3-4, 2-2).
The Cardinals have shown their resilience by rallying to win the past five games but still seek that wire-to-wire performance that they haven't had. Louisville came close in a 35-7 rout of Missouri State seven games ago but that lopsided outcome masked uneven play that continues to be an issue.
The Cardinals would like nothing more than to put together a consistent effort against the Owls and pull even with first-place Rutgers in the Big East standings.
''What's really great is just sitting there undefeated and knowing that you can still really improve,'' Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. ''That's the message to our football team each and every day.''
Louisville players found another more pertinent message in Rutgers' non-conference loss to Kent State: Don't take any opponent lightly. That could especially apply to an Owls team hungry to win after losing their last two contests to Rutgers and Pittsburgh by a combined margin of 82-27.
''Anybody can get beat on any day,'' senior offensive tackle Alex Kupper said. ''It's definitely a reminder - anybody can come in here and beat us or we can go anywhere and beat anybody.''
The Cardinals beat Cincinnati 34-31 last week in overtime. The win kept alive Louisville's title hopes and provided the Cardinals an emotional boost.
Louisville twice rallied from 10-point deficits against the Bearcats, almost overshadowing their season-best 524 yards of offense. Most of that came in the second half as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater passed for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a career-high 416 yards, earning Big East offensive player of the week honors.
Bridgewater said the most rewarding aspect of his performance was finishing better than he started, especially in what was the Cardinals' most important game to date. They had lost four in a row to their conference rivals and wanted to remain in control of their own destiny.
''I was really pleased with the way I bounced back because I had a slow start but finished the game strong,'' said the sophomore, who ranks second in Big East passing efficiency (163.4) and third in per-game yardage (263.8).
''I don't see a letdown against Temple because they have a fast defense that's difficult and disguises everything.''
Though Louisville has managed to rally to win games all season, the Cardinals would like to avoid those situations. The want to get ahead in a game and stay there.
''We did not play our brand of football'' against Cincinnati, Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. ''Usually we start fast and we didn't because of the way we started the first couple of series. Once we got on the same page, we took off.
''There's a little attention-getting we have to do, and we don't want to go through that exercise.''
Despite Temple's struggles, the Owls have the Cardinals' attention.
Temple lost 35-10 at Rutgers and was blown out 47-17 last week at Pittsburgh. But the Owls feature the Big East's No. 3 rushing offense at 161.7 yards per game. Temple's ground attack is led by fifth-year senior Montel Harris, who was the Atlantic Coast Conference's career rushing leader at Boston College (3,735 yards) before he transferred to play for the Owls.
Harris has rushed for 463 yards and four touchdowns, ranking third in the conference with a 77.2 per-game average. But he isn't Temple's only weapon. Backfield mate Matt Brown is third in all-purpose yards at 132.7 per game. Quarterback Chris Coyer ranks eighth in Big East total offense (174.9 yards per game) and has eight touchdowns against three interceptions.
The Cardinals say they are not looking past Temple.
''We realize we're on the path and setting goals that this school has never seen before,'' sophomore linebacker Deiontrez Mount said. ''We're very excited, just fighting to stay humble.''
AP freelance writer Josh Abner contributed to this report.