=== Cincinnati visits No. 16 Louisville in Big East brawl ===
Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Led by the accurate arm of quarterback Teddy
Bridgewater, the No. 16 Louisville Cardinals will attempt to keep their
perfect season alive in a Big East conference clash with the explosive
Cincinnati Bearcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
After a blazing start to the season, Cincinnati was cooled down last weekend
in a 29-23 loss to instate foe Toledo. In a matchup of two prolific offenses,
the Bearcats lost despite out-gaining the Rockets in total yards by a 478-355
margin. Cincinnati was 5-0 and ranked No. 21 in the top-25 entering the game
but with the loss has dropped from the national rankings. This is only
Cincinnati's second Big East game with the first a 34-10 rout of Pittsburgh in
game one of the season.
Louisville has yet to take its foot off the gas this season with the Cardinals
a perfect 7-0 entering play. Louisville has remained relatively still in the
national rankings over the last few weeks and currently sits at No. 16 which
is where it sat last week before rallying for a 27-25 win over South Florida.
The 7-0 start is the best for the Cardinals since 2006. The Cardinals have
also won four straight at home, the longest such streak under head coach
These former Conference USA opponents have met a total of 51 times with
Cincinnati holding the edge with a 29-21-1 record against Louisville. Since
the pair joined the Big East in 2005, Cincinnati has also been the more
dominant team, though by a slim 4-3 margin. That includes wins in each of
the last two seasons.
Normally one to downplay the importance of a single game, Strong has made it
clear that this game is a crucial one for his team.
"We know this is a big game for us this week," Strong said. "We haven't been
undefeated since I've been here. We haven't been in the conference race. We
just talk about being a one-game season, and let's just continue to play. But
this is a big game; it's a big game for the program."
Offense has come easily to Cincinnati this season with the Bearcats ranked at
the top of the Big East in total yards (467.5 pg) and scoring offense (34.7
ppg). That type of offensive output was on display in the loss to Toledo with
the team racking up 478 total yards, however a pair of interceptions and only
two red zone trips kept the Bearcats from putting up more points.
A bulk of the blame for the offense's inability to score falls on Munchie
Legaux. The Bearcat quarterback threw for 227 yards and a touchdown, but
completed a season low 41.7 percent of his passes and was intercepted twice.
On the season Legaux has not been extremely efficient in completing passes
(53.3 percent) but he has racked up a solid total of 1,435 yards and 12
touchdowns to five interceptions.
Legaux is also an integral part of the Bearcat run game, ranking second on
the team in rushing yards (264) and rushing touchdowns (three). He ran for 66
yards and a score against Toledo. George Winn (607 yards, 4 TDs) and Ralph
David Abernathy (245 yards) have also been able to pick up yards on the
ground. Abernathy had a season-high 98 yards against Toledo.
In terms of catching the ball there is no real standout for the Bearcats.
Kenbrell Thompkins leads the team in receptions (18), while posting 276 yards
and a score. Travis Kelce has risen in the ranks in recent weeks with 165 of
his team-high 286 yards coming in the last two games.
Cincinnati's defense did its job against Toledo, holding the normally potent
Rockets to 355 total yards and no offensive touchdowns.
"If you would have told me that our defense would hold the explosive Toledo
offense scoreless in terms of touchdowns, I would feel pretty confident that
we would win the game," Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones said.
Jones' squad has been rather adept in keeping teams off the scoreboard this
season. Despite giving up a fair amount of total yards (352.7 pg) to opposing
teams in part because of the pace its offense plays, the Bearcats have largely
been able to limit opponents in scoring. Cincinnati is ranked second in the
Big East in scoring defense (16.8 ppg).
Greg Blair is the team's leader in tackles (54) and the only player to have
reached the 50-tackle mark at this point in the season. Blair has also
collected a pair of interceptions and has a team-high five passes defended.
The Bearcats took a big loss earlier this month though in losing Walter
Stewart, who is out indefinitely. Stewart had team-highs in tackles for loss
(7.0) and sacks (5.0).
Bridgewater has been the steady force for Louisville. The sophomore
quarterback rarely seems to get rattled and thus far he has rarely made
mistakes with the third-highest completion percentage in the nation (73.4). In
the win over USF, Bridgewater led the Cardinals 75 yards in a little over a
minute and a half before throwing the game-winning 11-yard touchdown pass to
Eli Rogers with less than two minutes remaining.
"When USF scored, Teddy (Bridgewater) told me we were good," Strong said. "If
we protect the quarterback, Teddy will make the throws. If you protect Teddy,
he has enough progression where he is down the field and he is always moving."
That ability to go through his progressions is evident with a look at the
Cardinals stat sheet, as eight different receivers have at least 11 catches
this season. Leading receiver DeVante Parker (16 receptions, 337 yards) was
slowed to just 18 yards against USF. So Bridgewater turned to Damian Copeland
who caught a season-high five passes for 93 yards and a score.
On the season Bridgewater has thrown for 1,694 yards and 11 touchdowns with
only three interceptions.
Passing is not all Bridgewater brings to the table as he can run when his
passing lanes are clogged. His ability to take off with the ball was
especially needed against USF as he had a team-high 74 yards on the ground
with the normally potent combination of Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright held
to just 56 yards combined. Perry (588 yards, 10 TDs) and Wright (477 yards, 7
TDs) have been the most productive rushing tandem in the Big East this season
even with the struggles against USF.
Louisville has not been an exceptionally productive defensive squad this
season, ranking fourth in the Big East in both scoring (21.9 ppg) and total
defense (339.0 ypg). The Cardinals have not been able to create a great deal
of turnovers (10 total), while allowing teams to convert a conference-high
45.5 percent of their third down attempts.
Thus far that has not been a problem with how well the Cardinals dominate time
of possession and limit other teams opportunities. Louisville leads the
conference in the category with nearly 33 minutes of possession per game.
The strength of the defense is in the secondary where safety Calvin Pryor (54
tackles) and cornerback Hakeem Smith (39) rank first and third, respectively
on the roster in tackles. The player to watch on the defensive line is Lorenzo
Mauldin, who has a team-high 4.5 sacks.
10/24 10:51:31 ET