Louisville, which has a total of just three wins against other programs from the Football Bowl Subdivision so far this season, took care of the Syracuse Orange last Saturday with a 27-10 triumph following an emotional visit in the locker room pre-game by Anthony Conner who, against Rutgers a week earlier, broke his neck.
"For the first time, our players had a chance to see this young man right before pre-game," Louisville head coach Charlie Strong remarked. "To be the competitor he is and have a competitive spirit, we see the respect our players have for him."
With the victory, the Cardinals moved to an even 4-4 on the campaign and 2-1 in the Big East.
Speaking of the Big East, the latest news coming out of Morgantown has the Mountaineers making the jump to the Big 12 Conference sometime in the near future, as long as all of the particulars can be worked out.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for WVU athletics, our fans and the state of West Virginia," noted head coach Dana Holgorsen. "Having coached in the Big 12 before, I appreciate the excitement, passion and expectations associated with the conference, and I have no doubt that WVU athletics will be a great addition to the Big 12."
While still a part of the Big East, the Mountaineers locked up against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights last Saturday on a snow-covered field and pulled out a 41-31 triumph, the 17th straight win in the series for WVU. Ironically Rutgers, which led by as many as 10 points late in the first half, was led out onto the field by paralyzed Scarlet Knights player, Eric LeGrand.
Like the Cardinals, WVU is now 2-1 in conference play and that has both squads tied with Pittsburgh for second place in the standings behind only Cincinnati with its 2-0 in conference mark.
In terms of the all-time series between these two teams, WVU has taken 10 of the previous 12 encounters, including four in a row. Last year, the Mountaineers posted a 17-10 triumph over a Cardinals squad that hasn't topped WVU since a 44-34 decision at home back in 2006. The only other triumph for Louisville in the series was a low-scoring affair (9-7) back in 1990 on West Virginia's home field.
Louisville jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter versus Syracuse last week, and never looked back as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater converted 17- of-24 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, while shaking off three sacks. Vic Anderson accounted for a team-best 93 yards and a score on 11 rushing attempts as well.
The 27 points for the Cardinals, once a very aggressive offensive program, was the highest output of the season thus far and marked just the third time in eight games that the team had scored more than 17 points. In fact, the squad is still averaging just 17.6 ppg which is not only last in the conference, it is 113th in the nation heading into this week. Bridgewater is completing 63.3 percent of his pass attempts thus far, but he has just seven TDs to show for his efforts, against six picks on 150 throws. DeVante Parker leads the group with four TD catches on a mere 11 receptions, posting one of those scoring catches last weekend.
As far as the Louisville defense is concerned, leading tackler Dexter Heyman (55 stops) is also the leader with 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage and is tied for the team lead with a pair of pass interceptions for a group that ranks first in the league and 11th in the country with just 16.3 ppg allowed.
Geno Smith connected on 20-of-31 passes for the Mountaineers against Rutgers, producing 218 yards and a couple of second-half TD strikes which lifted the visitors to the win on the road. Shawne Alston ran for a game-high 110 yards and also crossed the goal line twice on 14 attempts for West Virginia, the team gaining 210 yards and posting four TDs on the ground overall.
Julian Miller and Brodrick Jenkins were the defensive stars for the Mountaineers are they logged two fumble recoveries and two interceptions, respectively.
There have been more than a few games this season in which WVU has allowed the opposition to put significant points on the scoreboard and at times there seems to be no rhyme or reason for it. However, one area in which the Mountaineers have lacked adequate pressure is at the line of scrimmage and further up the field. Not only is the team last in the conference and 86th in the nation with just five tackles for loss per game, but it is also 109th with a mere 1.1 sacks per game as well.
Smith and the offense can try and cover up some of the lackluster play of the WVU defense and this year Smith is making it happen by throwing the ball quite a bit. Now averaging a pedestrian 127.3 ypg on the ground, Smith has the aerial attack accounting for 354.9 ypg, which is tops in the conference and seventh in the nation and is certainly something the Cardinals should be keeping in mind.
"We don't plan on changing anything," Anderson says of Louisville's preparations heading into the meeting with WVU. "We just want to execute our game plan. Coach Strong always says it starts up front with the big guys. You could see that today and next week it will show again."