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November 15, 2011

Embarrassed Cards seek redemption at UConn

Brandon Dunn, the University of Louisville's sophomore nose tackle, has a one-word description for last week's 21-14 loss to Pittsburgh in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

"Embarrassing."

The Cardinals (5-5, 3-2) can't erase that loss from the record books, but they can take a step toward wiping the egg off their collective faces by beating Connecticut (4-5, 2-2) Saturday in East Hartford (noon kickoff).

A victory would make UofL bowl eligible for the second straight season under coach Charlie Strong on the heels of a four-year drought. The Cards defeated Southern Mississippi 31-28 in last year's Beef'O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., after going into their final game needing to beat Rutgers to reach six wins, which they did handily.

"We were in the same position last year and we were able to do it," Strong said. "If it's important enough to our guys, they'll get the mindset, get ready and try to go get it done. It would be a huge step to get to a bowl game this season when you're sitting there wondering how many games could you realistically win, and now you're going to place yourself into position to get to a bowl game."

However, just becoming eligible doesn't guarantee a bowl bid, especially this season. At this point, all eight Big East teams could be bowl eligible and the conference has just six bowl tie-ins, including the BCS Orange Bowl in Miami. And one of those spots, the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., will probably be taken by Notre Dame.

Right now, barring a conference title and the automatic BCS berth, the most likely bowls for UofL are the Belk vs. an SEC team in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 27 or the BBVA vs. an ACC club in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 7.

Of course, UofL is also still one of six teams still in contention for the Big East championship, but could be virtually eliminated with a loss at UConn, where the Cards have failed to win in their last two trips.

All of that aside, though, Dunn and his teammates are vowing that there won't be a replay of last week's uninspired performance at UConn.

"We're setting the standards high this week," Dunn said. "We're more focused, locked in. A lot of people understand now what can happen if you don't lock in the whole week and prepare. People are moving around in practice, knowing what they have to do, more of how we looked when we were on a three-game winning streak."

Said running back Dominique Brown: "I'm pretty sure we'll bounce back. We're a pretty good road team and we're approaching it like we've got something to prove and a chip on our shoulders."

While acknowledging that the Cards should have learned their lesson when they were upset by Marshall earlier in the season following an emotional victory at Kentucky, defensive end William Savoy says he firmly believes the lesson has finally sunk in now.

"Obviously, I believe we're going to learn from this mistake," Savoy said. "I'm confident this teamm will bounce back; we're going to come out and win these last two because I think this one really hit home for us. After Marshall, it was, 'Okay, we lost.' But this one really hit hard, I could see it in some of the guys' eyes."

Now he, and coach Strong, hopes they see it on the field at Rentschler Stadium Saturday.


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