Season's Smallest Crowd Watches Louisville Move to 10-1
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Several University of Louisville seniors who played their final home game Saturday were members of the Cardinals' team that won only four games in 2009. That won't be their legacy to U of L football.
They'll exit as essential members of the first Louisville teams to win at least 10 games in consecutive seasons. The Cards' 10th victory came Saturday – 24-17 over Memphis. The most unsettling news for Louisville was the nearly 10,000 unfilled seats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in the smallest home crowd this season.
After generating only 40 offensive yards in the first quarter, Louisville showed an improved passing and running game in the second half to improve its record to 10-1 overall and 6-1 in the American Athletic Conference.
If this was farewell for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, it was a good one. Bridgewater completed 26 of 36passes for 220 yards and a 39-yard touchdown pass to his favorite receiver, DeVante Parker. He did not throw an interception.
Senior linebacker Preston Brown also departed with a moment to remember – scooping up a fumble by Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch near midfield and running 48 yards for a touchdown.
SENIOR MOMENT – The program honored 18 seniors in a pre-game ceremony. If you check the depth chart, there's little doubt that plenty of valuable playing time will be available next season.
Of the 18 seniors, 10 were listed as starters Saturday – six on defense (Marcus Smith, Hakeem Smith, George Durant, Roy Philon, Brandon Dunn and Preston Brown) and four on defense (Damian Copeland, B.J. Butler, Kamran Joyer and Ryan Hubbell).
Considering there are at least three underclassmen who have played like NFL draft picks, Charlie Strong will be facing his largest rebuilding assignment since his arrival four seasons ago.
NO-SHOW CITY – Although this was the final home game, it was easily the smallest of the seven home crowds. U of L announced that 46,421 attended the game, about 7,500 less than Louisville's season average of 53,996.
Prior to Saturday, the smallest crowd this season was 51,586 for Florida International. The largest crowd was 55,332 for the season opener against Ohio University. Although every ticket was sold, there were more than 9,000 no shows.
"It's something I've spoken about," Strong said. "We're not going to change that. We can only welcome the fans that come and tell them how much we appreciate their support. You've just got to continue to win and continue to build the program. Someday we'll get it changed."
SITTING ONE OUT – Calvin Pryor, an all-American candidate at safety, missed the game Saturday. Pryor dressed in his jersey and warm-up pants, but no shoulder pads or helmet. Pryor watched from the sidelines while encouraging his teammates.
Asked if Pryor was injured, Louisville football sports information director Rocco Gasparro said Strong would address Pryor's status after the game.
THE NFL REPORT – The crowd of NFL scouts at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium has thinned from the season-high of 26 for the Rutgers' game on Oct. 10. Only four NFL teams scouted the Cardinals Saturday – representing the Packers, Vikings, Eagles and Bills.
Including underclassmen, Louisville could have as many as eight guys selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. Here is an unofficial rundown, according to one scout:
Seniors – defensive end Marcus Smith, second or third round; linebacker Preston Brown, fourth or fifth round; safety Hakeem Smith, sixth or seventh round; defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, sixth or seventh round and defensive tackle Roy Philon, sixth or seventh round.
Juniors – quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, top five picks; safety Calvin Pryor, second or third round; receiver DeVante Parker, third or fourth round.
UP NEXT – The Cards have a week off before finishing their regular season Dec. 5 at Cincinnati, a Thursday night game that will be televised by ESPN at 7:30. The Bearcats (8-2) started the day tied with U of L for second place in the AAC.
The games that matter most for Louisville, however, are the two games that Central Florida will play – a Friday home game against South Florida and then a trip to Southern Methodist Dec. 7. Louisville cannot win the American Athletic Conference, and the BCS bowl bid that comes with the title, unless UCF loses both games.
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