Senorise Perry scampers for the game winning TD last night
The only thing missing from this game was an ark. Last week in Miami conditions were less than desirable, but last night took things to a whole new level. It rained off and on throughout the entire day in Hattiesburg and many predicted that the severe weather would subside by the time the 8:00 kickoff rolled around. Not so much. In what had to be one of the three rainiest games I’ve ever witnessed in my Cardinal lifetime (the overtime UK game in 2000 and the infamous Florida State game would have to be the other two), Charlie Strong’s team persevered through near-unbearable conditions to eek out a narrow 21-17 victory over Southern Miss. There’s no point in being even the slightest bit critical or trying to over-analyze this thing because this was almost a throw-away game – so to speak. With 30 mph wind gusts, driving rain and a field that seriously drained worse than a middle school soccer pitch, the game was not your typical run-of-the-mill match-up. Both teams were literally unable to throw the ball and it was a battle of attrition in the running game. It was going to be won or lost by relentlessly pounding the ball on the ground, and that’s exactly what both teams did. Louisville to the tune of 184 yards on an astounding 50 carries, Southern Miss for 224 yards on 48 carries. Teddy Bridgewater was 5-5 on Louisville’s opening drive. After that he would only attempt 8 more passes. He finished the game with just 85 yards (9-13) with one touchdown and one interception. That interception proved to be huge as it deflected off DeVante Parker’s hands and landed right in the chest of Golden Eagles safety Reggie Hunt who then promptly took it 23 yards for a touchdown. Bridgewater connected with Parker earlier in the game on that opening drive for a 29-yard touchdown strike – his first of the season. Senorise Perry, who led the Cards with 118 yards and two touchdowns, scored his first in the second quarter, but the Cards would go into the locker room with their biggest deficit of the year.
I’m not sure what Strong said to the team during his halftime speech, but it clearly worked. Down 17-12, Louisville would pitch a second half shutout to preserve the win. But it still wasn’t easy, and it took a late 4th quarter drive and a huge special teams play to pick up the victory. With the rains falling even harder than in the first half, the only points from either team in the third quarter would come via a 38-yard field goal from Louisville kicker John Wallace. The Cards entered the 4th quarter down 2 points, 17-15. Both teams struggled to get first downs the rest of way and it became a punting contest. At that point you just need one play, one spark, and you can completely change the game. And when Southern Miss punter Pete Boehme found himself lining up for a punt deep in his own territory, that spark finally happened. With Louisville corner Adrian Bushell pressuring off the right side, Boehme shanked the punt and it only went 6 yards, setting Louisville up for a game winning drive with 5:00 on the clock. Strong would later tell reporters that at that point they just wanted to milk the clock, run a few plays and set up Wallace for what would hopefully be the game-winning field goal. But Perry had other ideas. On a third and long, the junior bounced it off the right tackle and scored the go-ahead touchdown from 20 yards out. It was an explosive play and an outstanding effort from Perry. From there, Louisville just had to collect themselves for one last defensive stand in order to sneak out with the win. And that’s exactly what they did. Fueled by pressure from rising freshman DT DeAngelo Brown, the Cards held the Golden Eagles on their final possession and preserved the 21-17 win.
– Like I said at the top, it’s pointless to over-analyze this game. The conditions were among the worst you’ll ever see on a football field, so most game-speak goes right out the window. Bridgewater couldn’t throw the ball, Watson had to scrap the playcalls (for the second week in a row), the defenders couldn’t get a grip for tackles and small mouth bass were swimming down the crown of the field. Again, just toss any criticism out the window. A win is a win, particularly on the road.
– We finally saw the defense we’ve been looking for all season. At least in the second half, that is. The team only finished with one sack, but they had 6 tackles-for-loss and had solid pressure on the QB for much of the second half (particularly in the 4th quarter when it mattered most). Certainly a step in the right direction
– Without question, Louisville has lacked playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. Particularly on the defensive line and from their linebackers. Well, they might have found those playmakers – and they’re both freshmen. DeAngelo Brown, as mentioned, was an absolute terror on the line and constantly disrupted the Southern Miss backfield. He blew up several tackles and was shedding 300-lb blocks like they were gnats. Meanwhile Keith Brown led the team with 9 tackles (8 solo) and was all over the field making plays. It’s exactly what this linebacking corps had been missing and, suffice to say, Brown might have just solidified significant playing time for the rest of the season.
– Props to sophomore defensive end Deiontrez Mount too, as he played a really nice game – including a huge 4th quarter sack that resulted in a 20 yard loss for Southern Miss.
– After seeing Jeremy Wright fumble in the 2nd quarter, it was clear that Senorise Perry was going to be the focal point. And he didn’t disappoint. As mentioned, he finished with 118 big yards and the two scores. He’s becoming the go-to guy in the backfield for Louisville and he’s emerging as one of the best players on this team.
– Louisville moves to 5-0 for the first time since 2006 and for the 7th time in school history. I know people keep saying it, but it’s true: the team is simply winning games that it would have lost last season. It’s not always pretty, but the team is trending in the right direction.
– I think this Louisville team is good. Definitely not great. They’re going to lose some games this year and after watching Cincinnati win another big one yesterday against Virginia Tech, I’m not sure they aren’t the best team in the league. The ACC and Big 12 continue to look average for the most part and, maybe, just maybe, perhaps the Big East is simply better than a lot of people thought. The trio of Rutgers, Louisville and Cincinnati should make the start of conference play very interesting.