No. 20 Louisville didn't need its most dominating performance to handle conference foe UConn on Friday night. The hapless Huskies did a lot of the work themselves.
UConn turned the ball over five times, including three in first half, while Teddy Bridgewater threw for 288 yards and a touchdown as Louisville kept the Huskies winless on the season with a 31-10 victory.
Perhaps the minds of Louisville coach Charlie Strong's players were elsewhere as they faced the 0-7 Huskies, and that lack of focus showed early on. The Cardinals' only drive of the first quarter resulted in a punt, and were it not for a Charles Gaines touchdown off a blocked UConn punt Louisville might have ventured into the second period tied in a scoreless game against the AAC's worst program.
But the Cardinals soon began to wake up. Bridgewater found DeVante Parker for a 28-yard touchdown strike on the team's first possession of the second quarter, and Senorise Perry punched in another score with a little over two minutes left until halftime. Louisville went into the half with a comfortable 21-3 lead.
Thanks to a little more defense in the second half -- Terell Floyd returned an interception off UConn's Tim Boyle for a touchdown in the third period -- an unusually unproductive Louisville offense was overshadowed. The Cardinals came in averaging just shy of 40 points per game, yet they managed only two offensive touchdowns on the night. Their 369 total yards of offense also fell well short of their season average of 495 per game. By all accounts, this wasn't the explosive Louisville offense we've come to expect.
It's possible the Cardinals were looking ahead to a more important AAC matchup. Louisville welcomes conference leader Houston to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Nov. 16 with BCS implications on the line. The Cougars are quietly emerging as BCS sleepers, and if they manage to beat No. 21 UCF this weekend, it's likely that the game against Louisville could determine the AAC's BCS representative. That's relatively unheard of considering the Cardinals' dominance in this conference over the past few seasons, but Houston suddenly looks like a true threat, especially if it comes in having beaten the Knights on the road.
Even with other contenders emerging in the conference, the narrative for this Louisville team is the same as it's always been under Strong: BCS or bust. With the talent on that roster, anything less than the AAC's automatic bid will be a disappointment for the Cardinals. But to survive the next step against Houston, Bridgewater and the offense might have to return to form.