Louisville Football – The University of Louisville football team not only had to win in a place where it had never won, it also had to win in a way it hadn’t won this season — or in coach Charlie Strong’s two seasons, for that matter.
The Cardinals claimed at least a share of the Big East Conference title with a 34-24 victory over South Florida, their first win in five tries on the Bulls’ field. The league title seemed as improbable when the Cards stood 2-4 as it did when they trailed 17-3 late in the second quarter.
U of L (7-5, 5-2) hadn’t rallied from a double-digit deficit this season.
“What I told the team is just keep playing,” said Strong, who also had been 0-8 when trailing at halftime in his career. “It’s the first time we battled back from down 14. Just keep playing and good things are going to happen.”
Even Strong admitted that when the Cards were 2-4 there was “no way” he thought they’d earn a share of the Big East crown.
“I was just trying to figure out how to win a game,” he said.
“None of us would have believed this,” athletic director Tom Jurich said.
With Pittsburgh’s loss at West Virginia on Friday night, the Cards need only for Cincinnati to lose one of its two remaining games to claim the league’s automatic Bowl Championship Series bid. Cincinnati will visit Syracuse today and close at home against Connecticut.
U of L linebacker Dexter Heyman said that because the stakes were so high, the team responded in a different way than it had all season.
“This was a different type of game, it was a different type week, it was a different type of preparation,” he said. “There was more on the line with this game than any other game that I’ve been a part of as a college football player, so guys understood that.”
If ever the ghosts of past performances in Tampa would have crept into the Cards’ mind-set, it was when the Bulls took a 17-3 lead with 35 seconds left in the first half. USF was to receive the opening kickoff of the third quarter, and things were looking grim for U of L.