Photo courtesy of Louisville Athletics
MIAMI, Fla. (Sports Network) - For the first time this season the 20th-ranked Louisville Cardinals will hit the road, as they get set to do battle with the FIU Panthers in Miami.
Going on the road hasn't seemed to be too much of an issue for Louisville under Charlie Strong. In the first two seasons under Strong the Cardinals are 7-4 away from Papa John's Cardinal Stadium including a 4-2 mark last season. Continuing that success will be vitally important for the Cardinals, who play their next three games on the road.
"This next month is going to be a really good challenge for us," Strong said, "We are going to see just how strong of a football team we are."
Through the first three games of the season the Cardinals have looked strong with three victories all coming with the offense scoring at least 32 points. Two of those wins (Kentucky and North Carolina) came against non-conference opponents of one of the other BCS automatic qualifying conferences. Louisville is now 3-0 for the first time since 2006. That squad, under head coach Bobby Petrino, ended up finishing 12-1 with a win in the Orange Bowl and a national ranking of No. 6.
FIU has played only one game at home this season but the Panthers did capture their lone win in that contest, downing Akron 41-38. Last week FIU was dropped by instate foe UCF, 33-20. It is a much slower start in comparison to the Panthers' 2011 campaign, when they opened up 3-0.
One of those three wins came against this same Louisville squad as the Panthers posted a 24-17 win at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in week three of last season. That matchup was the only one there has ever been between the programs.
Louisville looked positively unstoppable on offense in the first half last weekend against North Carolina. The Cardinals scored on all six of their first half obsessions, five of which ended in touchdowns.
In the second half things began to fall apart but the Cardinals were able to hold on despite managing only three points after half time.
Despite the close call Strong was pleased with the demeanor of his team after the game.
"What was really good about that game is that when the players came into the locker room there was the feeling that they had lost the game," Strong said while still admitting the team needs to work on closing games more effectively "It's about staying involved in the game and locked in."
Led by sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals racked up 462 yards of offense, 360 of which came in the first half. Louisville has now recorded at least 450 yards in each of its first three games.
Bridgewater has been stellar in his second year under center. He has shown an ability to complete throws at a very high percentage and is currently leading the nation completing his attempts at an 81.8 percent rate this season while tossing 855 total yards and five touchdowns. The accuracy has also meant that Bridgewater makes very few mistakes and thus far he has yet to be intercepted.
Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright have formed a solid backfield tandem to complement Bridgewater and the passing game. The two are ranked third and fourth respectively in the Big East in rushing yards, combining for 528 yards this season. Against UNC Wright had the bigger day with 117 yards, but Perry was also effective with 87 yards and a score.
On defense the Cardinals got lit up for 410 total yards by a North Carolina team that threw the ball 41 times for 363 yards in an attempt to rally back from a massive deficit. Louisville is now surrendering 344 yards and 18.3 points per game.
Adrian Bushell had eight tackles to lead the team, but the Cardinals struggled to get a push up front with only two tackles for loss in the game.
FIU is near the middle of its own conference, the Sun Belt, in offensive production, tied for fourth in scoring (29.0 ppg) and total offense (420.0 ypg). Against UCF the Panthers were unable to reach those numbers finishing with only 306 total yards which were almost evenly split between the pass (154) and the run (152). The team also struggled to convert on third down with a 3-for-13 success rate.
Jake Medlock completed only 13 of his 28 pass attempts in the game but did throw for a score and did not turn the ball over. Darian Mallary racked up 71 yards on the ground and scored twice. He and Medlock have each rushed for over 160 yards so far this season.
The FIU defense didn't really find any success until after the Panthers fell behind 30-7 against UCF. Overall the unit allowed 431 total yards to the Knights including a 6.0 average per play. Defense has been a real weakness for FIU with the squad surrendering 39.0 points per game, which is the second worst mark in the conference. In terms of total defense, the team is marginally better, ranking fifth by allowing 420.7 yards per contest.
Against UCF three different players finished with double-digit tackles, led by Jordan Hunt. Tour Williams just missed double-digits with nine tackles, but was a force in the contest with four TFLs.