Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong reminds his players often about that stretch of humility in November.
Two games full of: ‘it wasn’t suppose to go this way’.
One game in which the Cardinals were double-digit favorites. The other where Louisville arrived undefeated. One game where the opponent had one conference victory before meeting the Cardinals. The other where the opponent was in a downward free-fall before the two met. Both in which Louisville was embarrassed.
Similar circumstances are on the horizon for Louisville.
There are 10 winless teams left in Division I FBS College Football. 40 percent of those teams are in the AAC. Louisville plays three of them in the next month. It’s bad, real bad…Nickelback bad.
So what exactly is my point again?
I’m certainly not predicting a loss. I don’t see it with this team. Even in an age of College Football full of parity, spread offenses, and trickery galore; I expect a Louisville team full of wisdom to prevail all the way to 12-0. I am, however, suggesting that Louisville remains wary of their future travels. No matter though. Even if I didn’t suggest a hiccup, Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong certainly would.
“He always tells us…” Senior DT Brandon Dunn noted, “Don’t forget Syracuse.”
Yes, Syracuse. While the Nation was already talking about, ‘What if Louisville runs the table?’; the Orangemen had other plans. Louisville arrived as a 3 point favorite. They were sent home with a 24 point loss.
A better example – certainly one that fits the caliber of Louisville’s next opponent – was the following week, against Connecticut.
The Cardinals were a 14 point favorite going into the UConn game. The Huskies had a measly 4-6 record. Louisville would take care of this one and set up the real battle next week vs. Rutgers. In the words of Lee Corso, ‘Not So Fast!’ Teddy Bridgewater broke his wrist and eventually severely sprained his ankle and Louisville resembled a team tasting the first bite of success and you know the rest of the story. It changed Louisville’s season.
“It was just like, man, heartbreaking,” veteran leader WR Damian Copeland noted. “It just so happened that Rutgers lost. We knew what we had to do after that UConn loss. I feel like that’s why we came out and did what we did at the end of the season.”
Often folks remember the Sugar Bowl win but not the road Louisville traveled to get there. Its quite ironic that in football – much like life – some of the most painful memories can teach you the most valuable lessons. It’s a talking point for Charlie Strong, who is a pro at that whole motivational thing. He’s using those losses as an ace in the hole. Get complacent? Get overzealous? Remember what happened last time?
“Last year we set a record for nine wins in a row. I felt like, as a team, we felt like we ‘arrived’, when we reached that point. Then we got hit with a loss,” Copeland noted. “The biggest thing this year is to not get ahead of ourselves. So we’re going out. We’re practicing hard, we’re respecting every opponent we play and not looking ahead.”
That humbling experience is a reason for Louisville’s success and the catalyst that keeps the success going.
The photo above serves as a testament to that. It’s the only schedule the Louisville Football players see that hangs in Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex. It shows the next game and nothing else. When that game is complete, the next game will be unveiled.
It’s a simple reminder. It’s a subtle meaning.
A message of what can happened when you look ahead. A message to learn from failures of yesteryear. A message of humbleness. A message of focus. And the main message Charlie Strong needs his team to reminder for duration of the season: One game at a time.
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