By MIKE RILEY
Going into this weeks game against Florida International, critics of No. 6 Louisville were saying that this Panther squad, with a few leftovers from the team that upset the Cards two years ago, is the worst team to ever come into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
And for the time anyway, the critics may have been right as Louisville was never threatened in a 72-0 victory.
Two stats, other than the final score, of course, are all that you need to look at: Louisville (4-0) out-gained FIU (0-4) in total yardage 464-30.
The Panthers crossed midfield once the entire day. With roughly 11 minutes left in the first half, Silas Spearman rushed for one yard to the Louisville 49. The Panthers punted on the next play.
Following the punt, Louisville running back Dominique Brown broke lose for 77 yards and a first down at the one. Brown scored on the next play to make it 24-0. Louisville led 38-0 at halftime.
“It was a great team win today,” Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. “We were truly just a better football team than FIU. We just got to think about just how far our program has come in two years, whereas two years ago they came here and beat us. Then, last year it was a seven-point game. It’s just so much as just our offense and defense and any kicking game. Our team responded.
“Yesterday ... we used to have a walk-through on Fridays, a mental walk-though, and I just didn’t like how things were going, so I stopped the walk-through and made them start over. I just had to tell the team they have the expectations around here. So, we have raised the bar and I expect us to go out today and perform, and we did. They responded well.”
Louisville got on the board quickly after halftime as Charles Gaines returned the kickoff 93 yards for a score. Teddy Bridgewater then threw his fourth touchdown pass of the day, a 34 yarder to former high school teammate Eli Rogers. Michael Dyer added another touchdown on a 3-yard run as the Cardinals led 58-0 entering the fourth quarter.
As Coach Strong cleared his bench, there was no letup in the reserves as quarterback Will Gardner threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Michaelee Harris and Brandon Radcliff scored on a 9-yard run for the final margin.
“I don’t think that FIU is a very good team right now. They are going through a re-building process and I think they will be able to turn it around, because they are recruiting,” Strong said. So what did Coach Strong like in a 72-0 blowout?
“Well, if you just look at the running back position, Dominique did an unbelievable job,” Strong said. “He had some good runs in and you got to have an offensive line and just do a better over-all job of blocking and just put bodies on bodies and just move the line of scrimmage. And Teddy had throws for a touchdown and defense was able to just shut them down.”
Bridgewater’s numbers weren’t ‘off the charts’ impressive, but he did complete 17-of-22 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns. Devante Parker caught six passes for 74 yards with touchdown passes of 3 and 6 yards while Gerald Christian hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass..
“It was just a great overall performance in all three phases of the game,” Bridgewater said. “We just went out today and competed and played a complete game. As a team, yes, this was our best performance of the season. We still know we have a long way to go but were going to continue to get better each and every day. We’re going to take this win and build off of it.”
“We had a tough day doing everything — throwing the ball, running the ball, blocking, and catching,” said FIU coach Ron Turner. “It’s where we are. We just have to keep going, keep working, recruit and get the right guys on the field and keep battling.”
Louisville has a bye this week before traveling to Temple on Oct. 5.