Louisville has shot at major upset with Florida State coming to town

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By ANNIE MOORE
College Contributor Network

The University of Louisville football program didn't have a remarkable season in 2002, going 7-6 with a loss to Marshall in the GMAC Bowl. But the key point in that season, and one of the defining moments in Cardinal football history, came on a rainy Thursday night in September of that year.

Sept. 26, 2002, the Cards are off to a 2-2 start, including a loss to instate rival Kentucky, and now the No. 4 team in the country is coming to town. Florida State looked to be an overwhelming favorite, and Louisville hadn't been back to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium since the loss to Kentucky almost four weeks earlier.

A Thursday night crowd packed Cardinal Stadium almost to capacity, and despite the torrential downpour throughout the whole game, the fans got their money's worth. In an overtime thriller, Louisville upset the Seminoles 26-20. On the second play of overtime, Henry Miller ran for a 25-yard touchdown that would send shock waves through Louisville, and put the football program on the map in a big way. 12 years later, in a different conference, with different players and coaches, the story lines are eerily similar.

Thursday night, ESPN broadcast, a Florida State team ranked in the top-five nationally, and a forecast for rain in Louisville...

These teams are much different than the teams of 2002. No Bobby Bowden on the Florida State sidelines, instead Jimbo Fisher and a star-studded offense led by the ever-controversial Jameis Winston. Winston is protected by one of the best offensive lines in the country. Florida State's ground game has been exceptionally effective this season, and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner has been consistent on the field. Winston has 149 completions on 211 attempts for 13 touchdowns, and is averaging over 300 yards per game.

This will be a true test of a Louisville defense that the country has been buzzing about. Eight weeks ago, no one thought that the storyline for Bobby Petrino's Cardinals would be the ridiculously dominant defense, but no one in Louisville is complaining. The Cardinal defense allows just 245.8 yards per game, the fewest in the county. As of Oct. 25, Louisville ranks No. 1 in the country in total defense. It is also ranked in the top-10 in the country in rushing defense (No. 3), red zone defense (No. 9), scoring defense (No. 4) and sacks (No. 7).

When defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, formerly of Georgia, instituted his new 3-4 system, many were skeptical about how Charlie Strong's defensive guys would adjust to their new roles. It's safe to say through eight games they've proven to have adjusted just fine. Lorenzo Mauldin has shown to be a beast at outside linebacker, already racking up 35 total tackles, six sacks and 11.5 tackles for a combined loss of 47 yards. But Maudlin isn't the only star on that offense. Inside linebacker James Burgess has 44 total tackles, two sacks and seven-and-a-half tackles for loss.

Louisville's secondary will also look to disrupt Winston's passing game, led by Gerod Holliman and James Sample. Holliman leads the team in interceptions this season, eight, while Sample has recorded three of his own.

But all of these defensive statistics can't hide the fact that Petrino's offense is stagnant. No defined go-to guy at the quarterback spot and a weak offensive line have proven to be a recipe for disaster, despite a plethora of weapons in position spots around the field. DeVante Parker is back from injury, and had nine receptions for 132 yards in his first game back against North Carolina State.

Michael Dyer, Brandon Radcliff and Dominique Brown have all seen touches on offense as well, with Dyer and Radcliff having the hot hands as of late. Dyer rushed for 173 yards and the game-sealing touchdown in the NC State game, and has 238 yards on the season. Radcliff has 389 yards on the season, on 75 attempts.

If Louisville's offense can find some way to be efficient, someone to jump out and have a career game, that will be its chance at pulling off the monumental upset. The defense has proven it can keep the Cardinals in the game, if they step up and get those stops in key moments like they have all season, Louisville could have a real shot.

All now hinges on the offense, which can't be too unsettling when Bobby Petrino is at the helm. Despite the offensive woes of this season, the bye week couldn't have come at a better time for the Cardinals, time to regroup and let the offense get ready for one of the biggest games to come to Louisville in the past decade.

And if there's anything the past has taught us, it's that anything is possible when Florida State comes to town on a Thursday night in Louisville.


Annie Moore is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Communications with a Sport Administration minor. She believes Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyMoreSports
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