Back in black, Cards prepare for Russell Athletic Bowl rematch in season opener
By Annie Moore
Total domination, that was the story behind the last match-up between Louisville and Miami. December 28, 2013 Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals pick apart the Miami defense and hand the Hurricanes a 36-9 loss in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Jump forward nine months, and it’s a rematch sure to prove entertaining.
There’s no doubt that Bridgewater was an integral part of the blowout and now that Bridgewater is a Minnesota Viking there is no question the Cardinals’ offense will look much different. But in taking the reigns of the offense, red-shirt sophomore Will Gardner will have many stars at his disposal that the Canes are very familiar with.
One of those stars is senior wide-receiver DeVante Parker, who led the receiving effort against Miami in the last matchup. To Miami’s relief, Parker is not expected to play the season opener after suffering a foot injury.
Gardner can still rely on the likes of receivers like senior Eli Rogers. Life-long friends with Bridgewater, Rogers provides a safety net of a sure handed go-to veteran. Rogers had 44 receptions for 536 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Rogers leads fellow wide-outs Michaelee Harris, James Quick, Robert Clark and Kai DeLacruz who combined for 61 receptions, 758 yards and seven td’s last season.
Louisville also returns its leading rusher from 2013, Dominique Brown. Brown returns to the running back position after a dominating junior campaign in which he averaged 63.1 yards per game, and rushed for a total of 825 yards and eight touchdowns.
Louisville’s defense lost some big names after the 2013 season. Team captain and senior middle-linebacker Preston Brown saw action in every game last season and led the team in tackles with 98. Defensive-end Marcus Smith led the Cardinals in qb sacks with 14.5 on the season, which was the second highest total in Division I football. Junior free-safety Calvin Pryor declared early for the NFL draft, he was second on the team in total tackles.
Despite the losses Louisville retains some powerhouse players and leaders to anchor the defense. Players like senior defensive-end Lorenzo Mauldin, junior safety Gerod Holliman and junior middle-linebacker James Burgess.
Miami comes in after losing its 2013 starting quarterback, Stephen Morris. Kevin Olsen, the projected starter for the 2014 season, was suspended earlier this month for failing a drug test and will not compete at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium this go around. That leaves many questions surrounding the next man up for Miami. The third string would-be, Ryan Williams, is rehabbing from an ACL injury, and senior quarterback, Jake Heaps, has been struggling with elbow discomfort throughout fall practices. Miami head coach Al Golden has been quoted saying they’ll “play it by ear and let it unfold” when it comes to naming a starter for the Labor Day matchup with Louisville.
Louisville’s season opener will be a game of firsts. The Cards first game of the season, first game in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Bobby Petrino’s first game of his second-coming and Louisville’s first “Black Out” themed game since before the Charlie Strong era. While all of these are exciting and motivating factors, Burgess says the uniforms are especially exciting for players who haven’t gotten to experience the “Black Out.”
“As a football player there is just something about the all-black, it makes you feel more tough, makes you feel more swag,” Burgess said. “It just makes you ready to play. It makes you feel like you are intimidating your opponent, all-black is just an intimidating color. Its going to give us this feeling that nobody can mess with us and we are going to go out and set the tone early, playing fast and physical.”
The Cards will no doubt need to be fast and physical headed into a tough first season in the ACC. Look for the Miami game to set the tone of the season and serve as a barometer for the Cardinals readiness to compete on the next level.