Louisville survived 4-to-5 inches of rain to defeat Southern Miss, 21-17.
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDRB) – The ritual begins at 8 a.m. on the day of every Louisville football game. Charlie Strong has a breakfast huddle with Paul Gering, his special assistant.
Gering has many specialties with the Cardinals' team. He encourages kickers. He monitors the players' dorm. He maintains connections with former U of L players.
Gering has one other specialty: He is the assistant coach in charge of weather forecasting.
Gering knew rain was forecast in the area around the University of Southern Mississippi campus Saturday evening. So instead of making his generic call and settling for a computerized forecast, Gering called a local number and questioned a meteorologist.
"I told Coach Strong exactly what he told me," Gering said. "It was going to rain most of the afternoon and then stop right before kickoff."
Louisville is still undefeated through five games, but Gering and the local weather forecaster are not.
They were only off by 3 ½ hours and 4-to-5 inches. On a night when an unrelenting rain forced the Cardinals to call 50 running plays and only 14 passing plays, turning quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into Mr. Handoff, Louisville (5-0) survived its trip to Lake Hattiesburg, defeating Southern Miss, 21-17. The winning touchdown came on a 14-yard run by Senorise Perry with 5:35 to play.
After the game, Gering looked into the skies and told Strong that he was resigning as assistant coach in charge of weather forecasting.
"Those were the worst conditions I've ever played in," said U of L safety Calvin Pryor. That includes the six inches of rain that fell prior to Louisville's win at Florida International a week earlier. Put a note on the Cards' past performance chart: They can perform on an off track.
"We should have played better, but given the circumstances, I'll take a road win any day," Louisville center Mario Benavides said.
Don't start playing the comparative score game. Yes, Southern Miss lost at Nebraska by 29 and followed it up by losing at Western Kentucky by 25. They didn't play in conditions like the conditions that overwhelmed the turf at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
This was the first game that Bridgewater wasn't the right guy to play quarterback for Louisville. Michael Phelps was.
By the middle of the first quarter there were puddles, several inches deep, scattered across the field. By the second quarter, there was only one puddle, but it stretched from goal line to goal line. The water was several inches deep along both sidelines.
Bridgewater started the game by completing his first five passes. The fifth was to DeVante Parker for a 29-yard touchdown. No problem.
Ooops. Big problem. The rain intensified. After that, the ball seemed slick. Uncomfortable. U of L offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said he junked most of the Cardinals' playbook, especially after Bridgewater's sixth pass slipped through Parker's hands and turned into a 26-yard touchdown on a Southern Miss interception.
Bridgewater finished 9 for 13 for only 85 yards. It was the first time he threw for less than 165 yards in his last 11 games.
"The ball was heavy," Bridgewater said. "It was like a medicine ball. It was hard to grip, very slippery. You still just have to manage the game."
Louisville staggered to settle on an effective Plan B. The Golden Eagles scored 17 straight points, building a 17-12 halftime lead. Strong and his assistant coaches instructed the players to stop talking about the weather and start talking about making better blocks and firmer tackles.
As much as Louisville struggled passing the ball, Southern Miss struggled more, failing to complete a pass in the first half. The Golden Eagles are a mediocre team that was energized by the bizarre conditions and the idea of upsetting the 19th-ranked team in the country. Louisville had to remember that the BCS-computer formulas don't care about the weather.
"There was no drying out at halftime," U of L defensive tackle Brandon Dunn said. "A lot of players were getting anemic because it was getting so cold from the rain. It was crazy. We were getting towels to dry off and cover ourselves to warm up in the locker room."
In the second half, Southern Miss had more trouble with the Louisville defense than it did with the rain. The Golden Eagles managed only 73 yards on 30 plays. When the defense had to deliver, the defense was monstrous.
A fumble by Jeremy Wright gave Southern Miss the ball on its 31 with 10:55 left in the game. The Golden Eagles lost 5, 19 and 1 yard on their next four plays – and then punted for six yards.
Louisville needed six plays to go 22 yards. All of them were running plays. The one that mattered was Perry's powerful burst through the right side of the line.
"I didn't expect it to be the game-winning touchdown," Perry said. "I thought we were going to win by a lot more. But things happen. That's the way it goes."
"A game like this last year we wouldn't have won," Benavides said. "Like FIU last year we wouldn't have won – and we didn't. The games we were losing last year by one or two scores, we're winning by one or two scores."
They're just not winning the weather forecasts.
Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
Sign Up for the WDRB Sports Newsletter
Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:33 AM EDT2013-05-23 15:33:46 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Only three rookie pitchers in the National League have struck out more hitters than Tony Cingrani this season. He struck out 28 guys and walked four in his first three starts withMore >>
Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati's top pitching prospect, returns to start in Louisville Thursday. Rick Bozich also discusses the future for U of L baseball and former Cards hoops' star Terrence Williams.More >>