- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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So Louisville is the last Big East team without a blemish, grabbing the No. 10 ranking in the latest BCS standings.
But the Cardinals would be well served to learn a lesson from Cincinnati and Rutgers, no longer standing with the Cardinals as undefeated teams.
Livin' on the Edge can be quite the dangerous proposition.
What has become clear through nine weeks is that no Big East team has figured out how to play a complete game on a consistent basis. Headed into its game against Toledo two weeks ago, Cincinnati had major first-half struggles -- something coach Butch Jones said was a concern of his moving forward. The Bearcats proceeded to lose to the Rockets.
Rutgers had its own share of early struggles headed into its game against Kent State, scoring 13 first-half points in the three games leading up to last weekend. Rutgers managed to win all three -- including a win over Temple after trailing 10-0 at halftime. But the Scarlet Knights proceeded to lose to the Flashes.
So that all brings us to Louisville.
The Cardinals have made it a habit of taking their games down to the wire, earning a cutesy nickname to go with some of their heart-stopping wins. If Charlie Strong had any hair on his head, he would have either a) yanked it out by now or b) had it all turn gray.
Indeed, the Cardiac Cards have been fun and maddening to watch all at the same time this season. In practically every game this season. Their most complete game? Back in Week 1 against rival Kentucky. Since then, Louisville has provided 50 ways to leave your fans with heart palpitations.
Way No. 1, Slip out the fourth quarter, Porter: Week 3, against North Carolina. Louisville jumped out to a 36-7 halftime lead. The Cards put on cruise control. North Carolina made a frenzied comeback, surviving only after Andrew Johnson deflected a pass in the end zone with 1:53 left. Strong said afterward, "We need to learn how to finish."
Way No. 10, Make a new game plan, Stan: Week 4 at FIU, rainy conditions. Teams tied at halftime. Louisville clings to 28-21 fourth-quarter lead with the Panthers set to get the ball back with less than five minutes to go. But they were called for a personal foul on the punt, and Louisville ran out the clock. Strong said afterward, "We were able to finish."
Way No. 17, Forget about the rain, Shane: Week 5 at Southern Miss. Louisville trailed 17-6 at one point in the second quarter, and 17-15 late in the fourth quarter. Senorise Perry delivered the game-winning touchdown run with 5:35 to go. Strong said afterward, "For us to come in and survive the conditions we played under just speaks volumes about our team."
BREATHE: Week 6, Bye.
Way No. 24, Hop on the second-half bus, Gus: Week 7 at Pitt. The Panthers led 21-17 at halftime before Louisville reeled off 21 unanswered points to take control of the game. Strong said afterward, "What was so great about it was our football team didn’t play well during the first half. We had too many penalties and made too many mistakes. In the second half, we were able to come out and operate on offense."
Way No. 36, Just drop in the last-minute key, Lee: Week 8 USF. The Bulls scored 15 straight points to take a 25-21 lead with 3:09 remaining. Enter Teddy Bridgewater, who threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Eli Rogers with 1:35 left to give the Cardinals the win. Strong said afterward, "We can't go into a game thinking because a team is 2-4 they aren't going to come into a game and play as hard. It was a good lesson for us. They came in here, South Florida wanting to win this game bad. But we had the answer at the end."
Way No. 50, get yourself free (in overtime): Week 9 Cincinnati. The Cardinals trailed for all but a few minutes of their game against cross-state rival Cincinnati. After Munchie Legaux sent the game into overtime with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Damon Julian, Louisville got a key interception and the game-winning field goal from John Wallace to win. Strong said afterward, "We’re 8-0, but still we can go play so much better. We have yet to put together a 60-minute game. When is that going to happen? We need that to happen."
Yes, the Cardinals need that to happen. There is no question this team has been resilient and resourceful, finding ways to win where other teams have found ways to lose. But if the Cardinals hope to make an undefeated run at a Big East title, they are going to need to play a complete game.
"I’m preparing myself for it, it’s going to happen at some point," Strong said. "I know these games are coming down to the wire but we’re able to stay in these games and give ourselves a chance to win and we’re coming away with the win. ... That’s what we haven’t been able to do, go play for 60 minutes and see how well we can play."
Because as we already have seen, livin' on the edge can sometimes get you beat.