By John Brady–
Louisville completed game two of their three-game road trip by pulling out a tough win in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, last Saturday night.
This game will be remembered by many Louisville fans. To say that it rained would be an understatement for this game. After Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater connected with Devante Parker for a touchdown on the first possession, there was nonstop rain, and numerous puddles flooded the field. Many players said it felt like they were playing “on a sponge.” The field was hardly draining any water; a little over an inch was on the field for the entire game. Upon viewing the game, it appeared the Cards were playing in a small swimming pool of sorts.
“We made it through our first swim meet, and I hope that’s the last one,” junior Preston Brown joked after the game.
With these wet conditions, play was very sloppy. The rain made it difficult for both teams’ quarterbacks to throw the ball, so it was a very run-dominated game. Louisville and Southern Miss both had trouble tackling and executing special teams. For example, after Louisville’s opening touchdown made it 6-0, senior quarterback Will Stein could not get the snap down in the rain and the extra point failed. Southern Miss and Louisville traded back possession three times after a fumble by the Eagles, a punt by the Cardinals and another punt by the Eagles.
Then, with the wind and rain going against Louisville, the Cards made a big mistake. On the first play of the drive Teddy Bridgewater escaped being sacked but his throw to Devante Parker went through Parker’s hands and right into Southern Miss defensive back Reggie Hunt’s hands. Hunt would run untouched for a touchdown to give the Eagles the lead 7-6. After Louisville struggled to move the ball against the Eagles due to the weather, they had to punt. Southern Miss then launched a drive aided by numerous missed tackles by the Cards. They would be stopped on the goal line after Southern Miss. quarterback Ricky Lloyd dropped the ball twice because it was so wet.
The Eagles added a field goal to make it 10-6 at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Cards struggled again on offense. Southern Miss scored a touchdown before the end of the half, giving them the lead, 17-6.
Things were looking very grim for the Cardinals before halftime. However, with a few minutes before the break, Louisville running back Senorise Perry looked in inspired form. He and teammate Jeremy Wright carried the team all the way down the field. Perry finished with a strong one-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 17-12. The Cards’ two-point conversion failed when the ball slipped out of Bridgewater’s hand.
The third quarter displayed a different Louisville defense. Head coach Charlie Strong talked after the game about how he stressed the importance of tackling when the conditions are bad. Whatever he said worked, because the defense did not allow a single point in the second half.
After the half, Louisville made a stop on defense, and then began a long offensive drive starting within the five yard line. They got close to the end zone but had to settle for a field goal on fourth down. Senior Will Stein took the high snap and adjusted just in time for freshman place kicker John Wallace to kick the ball through the uprights to cut the Cards deficit to 17-15.
The Cards would find themselves moving the ball well again in the fourth quarter. Louisville drove into Southern Miss territory with a powerful rushing attack. The drive ended when Jeremy Wright fumbled the ball to give it back to the Eagles with nine minutes to play. Louisville made big stops on defense, led by Keith Brown, Deiontrez Mount and Deangelo Brown.
Senorise Perry earned another touchdown for the Cards when he rushed to the right then cut hard up the middle and burst into the end zone to give the Cards a 21-17 lead.
“I was just trying to get the ball in good field goal position,” Perry said after the game.
With only four minutes remaining, Southern Miss did not give up. They drove down into Cardinal Territory where they found themselves with an opportunity with just 53 seconds left. On the play, Southern Miss tried to run a trick play in which their running back threw it back to their quarterback. Louisville linebacker George Durant was not fooled, and he batted down the intended pass. Louisville then got the ball back, took the knee and got out of Hattiesburg with a 21-17 win.
In this weather it was a huge win for the Cardinals. This type of weather can make a game between any two teams an even game. Coach Strong said it best after the game.
“You know for us to come in and survive the conditions that we played under tonight just speaks about our team, a resilient team,” Strong said. “We talk to them about finding a way to win and we also talk to them about refusing to lose. You watched tonight the way we battled. We just refused to lose.”
The Cards did refuse to lose and move to 5-0 on the season. Next week, the Cards are off on a bye week and will not play. The following week, the Cards will complete their road trip with a game in Pittsburgh against the Panthers to open up Big East play. The 5-0 start is the best start since 2006 and only the seventh time in school history the Cards has won their first five games.
Photo: Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal