North Carolina (1-1) at (19) Louisville (2-0)|
Saturday, September 15, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 19th-ranked Louisville Cardinals attempt to climb up the
national rankings in arguably the biggest test of the early season, as they
take on the North Carolina Tar Heels at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Although the Tar Heels are just 1-1 they are a strong football team that
lost in a tight road contest to ACC and instate rival Wake Forest last
weekend. The decision came down to the last few minutes with the Demon Deacons
adding the winning score with just over two minutes remaining. North Carolina
suffered without lead rusher Giovani Bernard in the game and it is unclear if
he will be available for this matchup, although head coach Larry Fedora is
"I don't think he will ever not be ready. He wants to be out there on every
snap," Fedora said while adding how Bernard's absence effected the team,
"There's no doubt (we missed him). You have a player of his caliber and is
such a big part of what we do offensively."
The Heels will really need every advantage they can get against Louisville,
which has looked impressive through the first two weeks of the season. After
posting a 32-14 rout of instate rival Kentucky, the Cardinals followed up
with a decisive 35-7 win over Missouri State. Louisville is now 38-18
against non-conference opponents since 2002. With the win the Cardinals
moved up from No. 23 to the 19th-spot in the national polls.
This game will give each side a chance to split a 3-3 tie in the all-time
series. North Carolina won the last meeting 14-7 in a tight contest in
Chapel Hill last season. The Cardinals won the two previous matchups before
Currently North Carolina is ranked second in the ACC in scoring (44.5 ppg)
but that is largely due to a 62-0 win over FCS opponent Elon in week one. In
last weekend's loss to Wake Forest the Heels were held to a more pedestrian
27 points on 428 total yards, which narrowly edged Wake Forest's production
(426). The real difference in the game was in the red zone. While North
Carolina twice settled for field goals in five trips, the Demon Deacons
converted all four of their chances into touchdowns.
Even without Bernard the Heels still relied heavily on the run with 42
carries as a team. A.J. Blue filled in as the primary back with 106 yards on
19 carries and a touchdown. Romar Morris also had a solid game with 71 yards
and a score of his own.
The passing game was also able to rack up yards thanks to a 23-for-39
performance from Bryn Renner that netted him 271 yards and a touchdown,
although he did throw a pick in the game.
Just like the offense, North Carolina's defensive statistics this season are
misleading due to the week one win. Currently ranked fourth in the ACC in
points allowed per game (14.0), the Heels allowed 28 points to Wake Forest and
could not make enough stops down the stretch to give the squad a win.
The defense did play well on third down holding Wake Forest to just a
4-for-12 effort, but failed to get consistent pressure with only one sack as a
Tre Boston led the defense with 11 total tackles in the game and Kareem
Martin racked up half of his tackles (five total) for loss.
Louisville's offense has made a habit of executing long scoring drives so
far this season. The Cardinals had four different scoring drives of at least
eight plays and 70 yards in the win over Missouri State. In the previous
game the Cardinals also had three similar drives, including a 15-play, 99-yard
drive on the opening possession.
Such consistent play has made Louisville the second-best offense in the Big
East, in terms of yards per game (470.5), this season. At the helm is
quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has been sensational through the first two
games. The sophomore currently ranks third in the nation in completion
percentage (81.7) and is third in the Big East in passing yards. Bridgewater
completed 30-of-39 passes for 344 yards and a pair of scores against Missouri
"Teddy is doing a great job spreading the ball around," head coach Charlie
Strong. He is looking down field, and he can feel the pressure, but does a
great job getting rid of the ball."
The Cardinals didn't rack up 475 yards of total offense in the game without
some help from other players. Senorise Perry rushed for 73 yards to lead all
ball carriers in the game and also punched on in for a score. Jeremy Wright
played well in a backup capacity with 43 yards on 10 carries.
Defensively, Louisville looked strong in the win, surrendering only 249 total
yards and keeping Missouri State to just seven points. The defense also held
the Bears to a 4-for-13 performance on third down and had to face Missouri
State's offense just once in the red zone.
Calvin Pryor had a team-high eight tackles and also recorded an interception
in the game, while Hakeem Smith had six tackles including one for loss. As a
team the Cardinals had only four tackles in the backfield.
Louisville was certainly considered a favorite to win the Big East coming
into this season but the Cardinals were not an obvious choice to make the
national rankings. Through two games the Cardinals look like they belong and
a win against North Carolina would further cement that notion. With
Bridgewater playing at such a high level, a 3-0 start and another move up the
rankings should be in order.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 31, North Carolina 23
09/12 10:40:50 ET