Can Charlie Strong lead Louisville to a perfect season in 2013?
Thanks to a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, Louisville entered the offseason with momentum for its final season in the Big East/American Athletic Conference.
The Cardinals return a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and one of the nation’s best receiving corps. The offensive line is a question mark, as center Mario Benavides and left tackle Alex Kupper must be replaced.
In front of the largest crowd in Cardinal Stadium history, Louisville holds on to defeat Memphis State, 19-17, when sophomore free safety Ray Buchanan blocks a field goal with 1:31 remaining. The Cards had held a 19-7 lead but gave it up and then needed Buchanan’s heroics to overcome a Browning Nagle interception in the game’s waning moments.
Kerry Rhodes intercepts Jared Zabransky in the end zone as time expires to preserve a 44-40 victory over Boise State in the 2004 Liberty Bowl. The Cardinals overcome five turnovers and score nine-unanswered fourth-quarter points for the victory in a matchup of the nation’s top two offenses.
Playing in a downpour that is the residue of Hurricane Isidore, the Cardinals knock off fourth-ranked Florida State in overtime. The teams finish tied at 20 in regulation, and on the first play of OT, Anthony Floyd intercepts Chris Rix. Cardinals back Henry Miller then goes 25 yards for the winning touchdown in a 26-20 win. The drenched crowd storms the field and tears down the goalposts.
In its second Big East season, Louisville finishes 11-1 and earns its first BCS bid, to the Orange Bowl. Down 13-10 early in the third quarter, the Cardinals use touchdown runs by Anthony Allen and Brock Bolen to pull away and earn a 24-13 victory.
After several other teams turn down the chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl because Arizona wouldn’t recognize Martin Luther King Day, the Cardinals accept a bid to their first bowl in 13 years and roll to a 34-7 win over Alabama behind 453 passing yards and three TDs by quarterback Browning Nagle. Louisville outgains Bama, 571-189.
Athlon looks at the 10 greatest players since 1967.
Three Louisville quarterbacks are on the list and two others could have made a case (Stefan LeFors, Browning Nagle). Clearly, the quarterbacks aren’t doing it alone. Of Louisville’s top pass catchers during the John L. Smith/Bobby Petrino run, Branch was the best. He arrived as a junior college transfer in 2000 and became a 1,000-yard receiver in his first year – in a receiving corps that already included senior Arnold Jackson, who finished his career as the school’s leading receiver. Branch caught 71 passes for 1,016 yards with nine touchdowns in 2000 and caught 72 passes for 1,188 yards with nine touchdowns in 2001. In just two seasons, Branch finished his career as Louisville’s seventh leading receiver.
As a senior, Madison contributed to a defense that was a headache for opposing quarterbacks. The Cardinals’ defense intercepted 24 passes in 1996 while allowing only eight touchdowns. Madison paced a ball-hawking defense with 16 career interceptions, second-most in school history, and 44 career pass breakups, a school record. Madison earned third-team AP All-America honors in 1995 when he had five picks, but he only had one shot at the post season with an 18-7 win over Michigan State in the Liberty Bowl in 1993, his rookie season.
As a sophomore, McCloud recorded 133 tackles in 1994, coach Howard Schnellenberger’s final season at Louisville. He blossomed the next season as a third-team AP All-American and Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 1995. When he repeated as C-USA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1996, he joined quarterback Dave Ragone as the only player in program history to win a conference player of the year award twice (keep in mind, Louisville was an independent for two decades). McCloud is one of seven players to finish his Louisville career with more than 400 tackles.
Wilson made the most of his only bowl appearance, even in a loss. As a sophomore in 1977, Wilson earned Independence Bowl defensive MVP honors as the Cardinals held Louisiana Tech to 48 rushing yards. The bowl trip turned out to be Louisville’s last for 13 years. Though Wilson would never again reach the postseason and played the remainder of his career in anonymity, he continued his dominating play into his final two seasons. The linebacker from Brooklyn was known as a ferocious tackler, finishing his career with 484 stops. Professional teams noticed his play when the Chicago Bears drafted him in the first round.
After Redman put up more than 12,000 passing yards in four seasons, Ragone proved he was up to the task of taking over for his predecessor. Ragone didn’t miss a beat in 2000, passing for 2,621 yards in his first season as a starter. He followed that with 3,056 yards in 2001. He was Conference USA’s Offensive Player of the Year in three consecutive seasons, giving Louisville a string of four consecutive quarterbacks to win the award. Working with his favorite target, Deion Branch, Ragone went 20-5 as a starter in his first two seasons before slipping to 7-6 as a senior.
A key player as coach Howard Schnellenberger started to build up the program in the late 1980s, Washington started with a team that went 3-7-1 and ended his collegiate career capping a 10-1-1 season in the Fiesta Bowl. Washington, an interior lineman, finished his career with 298 tackles, including 88 in 1988, and 14 sacks. With Washington anchoring the defensive line, Louisville allowed only 12.9 points per game in 1990, the lowest average at Louisville since 1972. Washington went on to be a first-round NFL draft pick and a long pro career.
Redman was the first in Louisville’s line of exceptional quarterbacks under coaches John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. Louisville went 6-16 in his first two seasons, but Redman blossomed under Smith as a junior, passing for a single-season record in 4,042 yards as a junior in 1998. Louisville’s first 3,000-yard and 4,000-yard passer, Redman also was the quarterback who helped begin the Cardinals’ run of nine consecutive bowl games from 1998-2006. Redman finished his career as Louisville’s record-holder in career passing yards (12,541) and touchdown passes (84) among other career marks.
Jackson was a two-time Missouri Valley Player of the Year in 1970 and ’72 and led the Cardinals in tackles in each of his three seasons under then-coach Lee Corso. Despite playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, Jackson earned All-America honors in 1972 from the Walter Camp Football Foundation (first team) and from the Associated Press (second team). Louisville went 23-7-2 during Jackson’s career and shut out five opponents in his final two years. Jackson had at least 120 tackles in each of his three seasons at Louisville to finish with 373, which was second-most in school history when he left campus. He remains ninth on the Cardinals’ all-time list.
At 5-foot-11, 256 pounds, Dumervil didn’t have the typical physique of an elite pass rusher, but the defensive end from Miami ended up as the biggest defensive star for a Louisville program that churned out prolific quarterbacks and receivers over the course of a decade. His 20 sacks in 12 games in 2005 remains second only to Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs in single-season sacks (Suggs had 24) and sacks per game (1.71 per game). Six of Dumervil’s sacks in 2005 came against Kentucky, which tied an FBS record. Dumervil also added 10 forced fumbles that season on the way to winning the Nagurski Award. He also was Louisville’s first consensus All-American since Leonard Lyles in 1957. Dumervil wasn’t a one-year wonder, recording 12 sacks as a junior on the way to 32 total in his 44-game career.
Brohm was the latest in a line of Brohms to play at Louisville and the last in an uninterrupted run of prolific quarterbacks for the Cardinals, dating back to 1996. He was the best of both. At a program that boasts Johnny Unitas as an alum, few quarterbacks could make the case they are the best in Louisville’s history. Brohm could at least argue his point. Brohm passed for 2,883 yards and 19 touchdowns as the Cardinals went 9-3 in their first season in the Big East. He topped that as a junior, passing for 3,049 yards and 16 touchdowns as Louisville went 12-1 with a Big East championship and an Orange Bowl win. Brohm finished his career with 10,775 yards and 71 touchdowns, both second in program history.
Spring practice has ended, here are all the key injuries, personnel decisions and storylines
Depending on your point of view, spring practice is either a respite from the football-free months of winter and a taste of things to come in August. On the other hand, it’s only appealing to the hardcore football fan.
Sure, there’s the same questions every year -- is my team’s defense really good or is the offense really bad, or vice versa. But there’s also plenty of news and notes.
Can anyone beat Louisville and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in 2013?
Louisville is a heavy favorite to win the Big East/American Athletic Conference in 2013. With quarterback Teddy Bridgewater returning, along with one of the conference’s best defenses, the Cardinals have a good opportunity to finish the season with a perfect 12-0 mark.
While Louisville is a clear No. 1, there’s a lot of debate about which team should be projected to finish second.
Can Rutgers' Savon Huggins finally have a breakout season?
The Big East doesn’t have many household names returning at running back for 2013.
Houston’s Charles Sims is one of the best all-around backs in college football and leads the way for the Big East in 2013. Joining Sims atop the rankings is UCF’s Storm Johnson, Connecticut’s Lyle McCombs and Rutgers’ Savon Huggins. McCombs had a disappointing 2012 season but should top 1,000 yards in 2013.
Teddy Bridgewater ranks as the No. 1 quarterback in the Big East for 2013.
With all of the teams coming and going in the Big East, the conference is clearly one in transition for 2013.
Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is clearly the No. 1 quarterback in the Big East for 2013 and should be one of college football’s top 10 Heisman contenders. After Bridgewater, there’s a drop-off to the No. 2 option.