2011 Football Season Recap

After having so many seniors on the 2010 team, 2011 was supposed to be somewhat of a rebuilding season for Charlie Strong. With a new offensive line, very young defensive backs, and either a former walk-on or a true freshman starting at quarterback, just making a bowl game would be a challenge. Here is a quick summary of how the season went:

Murray State
The Cards opened their season with in-state opponent Murray St., who came in with a highly touted QB in Casey Brockman. In his last 6 starts, the Racers had averaged 549.7 yards of offense and 44 points per game. With an experienced passer like that, and so many questions at cornerback for UofL, some thought this would be a bigger challenge than expected for the Cards and that Brockman may be able to expose the defense. That never happened, as he was held to only 148 passing yards with 3 interceptions and 0 touchdowns. Will Stein started at QB for the Cards and threw for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns. Teddy Bridgewater played for 1 series, and if you can believe it, this is how it went: rush, false start, false start, delay of game, rush, rush, interception. The highly anticipated debut had come and gone just like that. A total of 18 players played in their first game for the Cards, and they were able to hold off Murray St. 21-9. Not pretty, but it was a win to start the season. Record 1-0

Florida International 
In the second game, a lot of fans did not know that FlU would be as good as they were. They figured it would be an easy win, because FIU is not a powerhouse, and most people hadn’t heard of T.Y. Hilton. After this Friday night game, they would definitely remember his name. Their QB, Wesley Carroll, was a senior who had transferred from Mississippi St., so he was also a veteran player. On UofL’s first drive of the game, Will Stein threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, and after that, FIU never trailed. T.Y. Hilton’s first 2 catches were for long touchdowns of 74 and 83 yards, both taking any energy out of the PJCS crowd. Hilton finished with 7 catches for 201 yards and the 2 touchdowns. Will Stein threw for a career high 349 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Josh Chichester had a great game with 6 catches for 111 yards. FIU went on to win the game 24-17. Record 1-1
Next up would be the battle for the Governor’s Cup in Lexington against Kentucky. This game was all about the UofL defense and about Teddy Bridgewater taking over this program. The UofL defense sacked Morgan Newton 6 times and really controlled the line of scrimmage. Will Stein threw an early TD, but ended up hurting his shoulder. After two games in which Bridgewater played 1 series in each, fans did not know what to expect with the true freshman having to play most of the game, on the road in a hostile environment. He put all questions to rest, showing great composure in running the offense and throwing for 2 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. This game also was big for Dominique Brown, who moved to RB after being the 3rd string QB. He responded with 91 yards on 14 carries. Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson combined for another 92 yards on the ground, as the Cards dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Kentucky made it close, but could not finish on their final drive, and the Cards beat the Cats for the first time since 2006 with a 24-17 win. Record 2-1


After beating UK and having a bye week, a win against Marshall at home looked to be a given. That is tough to do when you get 11 penalties for 91 yards, while Marshall only gets 3 penalties for 25 yards. This kept putting the offense in bad situations, and they just never got going. UofL only rushed for 60 yards, and Teddy Bridgewater threw 2 interceptions, while Marshall had 0 turnovers. There isn’t much more to say about this game, other than it was a big disappointment after the big UK win. Marshall won 17-13. Record 2-2
North Carolina
Against the North Carolina, it felt like UofL was dominating the game and should have been up 21-0. However, the score was 0-0 at half. This was the first game after Offensive Coordinator Mike Sanford was relieved of his duties. The offense would keep moving the ball down the field, but two missed field goals and stalled drives resulted in a tie game for most of this one. The big play in this one was a deep pass to Dwight Jones, where two UofL defenders could not tackle him, and looked to give up on the play, and he walked in the endzone. Down 14-0, the Cards got a late TD, but it was too late. UNC won 14-7. Record 2-3

Now it was time to focus on conference play, as the Cards opened up with a road test at Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium. Chris Philpott drilled two long field goals of 42 and 51 yards to put UofL up 6-0, but you knew that field goals would not win this game against a Cincinnati team that could score a lot of points in a hurry. Leading 9-7 nearing the end of the first half, Mike Evans picked off a Zack Collaros pass and took it back 63 yards for a touchdown, and UofL led 16-7 at half. The second half would be a different story. The UofL offense could get nothing going, and Cincinnati’s playmakers finally showed up. It was too much Collaros and Isaiah Pead, as they both scored touchdowns and Cincinnati won the game 25-16. Record 2-4
With a 2-4 record, most schools would not come out and say they were giving their head coach an extension. But this is what Tom Jurich did, and it was a great move. It showed that even though the record did not reflect it, the program was going in the right direction, and the future would be bright. The first victim for the Cards impressive late season run would be Rutgers. The UofL defense stepped up in this game and forced 3 interceptions. This was also the first game that UofL had a 100 yard rusher, as Jeremy Wright ran for 108 yards on only 11 carries. The offense scored just enough points, but the defense played the biggest role, holding Rutgers to 14. The Cards won 16-14, and this was also the game where Anthony Conner would be lost for the season with a broken neck. Record 3-4

University of Louisville's Michaelee Harris (2) makes the touchdown catch under pressure from Rutgers University's Logan Ryan during the second half of play at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. October 21, 2011

Both the passing and running games came together in the Syracuse game. UofL rushed for 145 yards, led by Victor Anderson’s 93 yards and 1 touchdown. Teddy Bridgewater passed for 198 yards and had 2 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. After beating West Virginia 49-23 the week before, the Syracuse offense never got it going, as the UofL defense stepped up once again with a solid game. The Cards went on to win this game 27-10. Record 4-4
West Virginia
In a battle of teams that were both trying to get into the Big XII (WVU won that one, for now), Charlie Strong notched his biggest victory as a head coach so far. The Cards went into Morgantown as 14 point underdogs. They were facing a team that put up 533 yards on LSU. The same WVU team that would go on to score 70 points in the Orange Bowl along with 589 yards. They still ended up with 533 yards this game, but a couple of turnovers and a blocked FG were key plays that went against them. Teddy Bridgewater was great, completing 21 of 27 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown with 1 interception. The key play was to start the 4th quarter. WVU lined up for a field goal, and Adrian Bushell blocked it. Not only that, but Andrew Johnson picked it up and ran 82 yards for the score, and that put UofL up 31-21. WVU responded with a TD to make it 31-28, but then the Cards had a 76 yard drive that used up over 7 minutes and ended with a touchdown. They left Morgantown with a huge win, 38-35. Record 5-4


So here is UofL, on a 3 game winning streak and coming off the biggest win of the season. If they take care of business and win out, the BCS is theirs. Remember what happened after their last big win? The one at Kentucky? Yes, another letdown. This one was similar to Marshall because of that, and just because there didn’t seem to be much offensive flow. Penalities on one drive caused UofL to face a 3rd and 32 from their own 7 yard line. That is the kind of day it was. Pittsburgh won 21-14. Record 5-5

The Cardinals wasted no time getting back on track in the UConn game to get bowl eligible. Adrian Bushell returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and Dominique Brown added another TD run to make it 14-0 in the first quarter. UConn made it 14-10 at halftime, but this game was controlled by the Cards. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 174 yards and rushed for 2 touchdowns. On the game’s final play, UConn tried to lateral the ball, but it was picked off and Malcolm Mitchell rumbled for a UofL score as time expired. So the Cards scored on the very first and last plays of the game and won 34-20. Record 6-5

South Florida
In the final game of the regular season, UofL would try to do something it had never done: beat South Florida on the road. It also hadn’t won a regular season game in the state of Florida in its last 16 tries, a streak that dated back to 1972. The Cards got down 17-3 in the first half, and things did not look good. But before halftime, Teddy Bridgewater found DeVante Parker for a touchdown, and it was 17-10 at half. UofL would outscore USF 24-7 in the second half as the Cards won 34-24. Teddy Bridgewater finished 19-28 for 241 yards and 3 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. UofL outrushed USF 132-64 and forced 3 turnovers, all while not turning the ball over themselves. Record 7-5


November 25, 2011; Tampa, FL, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) drops back during the first quarter of their game against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

N.C. State
The Cards clinched a share of the Big East title and ended up in the Belk Bowl against N.C. State from the ACC. The game was basically a road game for UofL because it was in Charlotte, just a couple of hours from the campus of N.C. State. The Cards did not play well early and got into a 21-10 hole by halftime. They made a great comeback in the second half and had a chance to tie it on a desperation final drive, but came up short 34-27. Teddy Bridgewater took a beating and just kept getting back up for more. He earned a lot of respect that game and showed the fans how much character he has and that he will battle until the end. Record 7-6

Even in the disappointing loss, a lot of fans were more encouraged than upset. The future showed in this game, and it is a bright future indeed. Right after the game, most fans were already looking forward to the 2012 season, and for good reason. They got down 31-10 in the 3rd quarter and never stopped playing. To even come back and only lose 31-24 was a good sign of things to come. After National Signing Day on February 1, it will be time to look ahead to next season. However, this season deserved one last recap.

This video was done by Mike Lindsay of www.cardsandcats.com. Follow him on twitter @CrumsRevenge

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