Who was that team in white in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on Saturday? That team played like they didn't want to get their crisp white uniforms dirty. They purported to be the 17th ranked University of Louisville Cardinals. But when C-USA basement dwellers Southern Mississippi hosted them, there were times they looked like they where ranked 17th in Jefferson County. Maybe. Monsoon-like conditions through most of the game didn't help.
True enough, M. M. Roberts Stadium could quite possibly be the worst FBS field in the country with zero drainage leading to players standing in several inches of water, not just on the sidelines, but on the actual playing surface as well. The Cards can't really use that as an excuse because the Golden Eagles played in the same conditions.
True enough, it was a weird day in college football. UK hung with South Carolina for a while. West Virginia and Baylor combined for 133 points. And Washington pulls the upset on a top 10 Stanford team. But with the Cards on the field, they shouldn't have known any of those things so that shouldn't have gotten into their heads.
True enough, most Cardinal fans couldn't see them because it was on the CBS Sports Network and unlike last week, you couldn't get it live because there's no steaming of the broadcast. Has any other top 25 team been relegated to an also ran cable network? And the I Heart Radio app of WKRD ran Fox Sports Network instead of the game. But would the team worry about that?
And then the second half came. Mistakes were still all over the place, but something happened to the defense. They remembered they were a nationally ranked program and stiffened up. They tackled Southern Miss for losses all over the place in the 4th quarter. The Golden Eagles tried to keep the Card defenders honest by throwing it a little, but both teams had to keep the ball on the ground as they played in the swamp that was Hattiesburg.
By the end, Louisville clawed back into the game, took the lead in the last 6 minutes and came out with a 21-17 win, thanks to Senorise Perry's tough running. Perry finished with 118 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jeremy Wright rang up an impressive 84 yards but lost a fumble while running through that marsh.
The Cards take next Saturday off, then it's on to Big East play. How does this game play into that? A game that was uncertain until the closing moments? Does it give them the toughness they need to run through the conference. The march to that begins October 13 at Pittsburgh.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton