Papa John's Cardinal Stadium hasn't exactly been home sweet home for the University of Louisville football team in this young season. The Cardinals (2-1) were unimpressive in an opening win over Murray State, then the following week were upset by Florida International, thus earning the ignominious distinction of being the only team from a BCS conference the Panthers had defeated in 22 tries.
So, after a three-week absence, UofL coach Charlie Strong hopes his players put on a better show for the local folks when Marshall (1-3) visits PJCS Saturday afternoon (3:30 kickoff). The Cards won't get another chance to shine on their home turf until an Oct. 21 Big East Conference date with Rutgers, which will come after trips to North Carolina and Cincinnati.
"We have to play better at home," Strong said. "We haven't played very well in this stadium out here."
It will be UofL's first appearance in PPJS since beating Kentucky on Sept. 17 to snap a four-game losing streak to its arch-rival. It will also be the Cards' first Saturday afternoon game following Thursday and Friday night contests, and Strong expects perhaps the largest turnout of the season after less-than-capacity crowds for the first two games.
"We feel like we're going to have some excitement because of the Kentucky win," he said.
"I expect the fans to come out in full force," defensive end Greg Scruggs said. "The first games were Thursday and Friday nights and people have things to do. I understand that, the world doesn't stop for football. It's a Saturday afternoon; hopefully, people will come out and support us and enjoy the show. We bust our tails every week to come out and put on a show for fans, so hopefully they'll come and appreciate and enjoy that."
One thing is almost certain: Marshall -- although it might be outmanned -- won't be intimidated or flustered by a large, noisy crowd or an opponent from a major conference because the Thundering Herd have already played two ranked teams, losing to West Virginia (34-13) and Virginia Tech (30-10), the former on the road after putting up a strong fight for more than three quarters.
Scruggs and Strong both said they're glad the Cards had a weekend off last week to lessen the danger of a flat performance against Marshall resulting from the potential of lingering euphoria and preoccupation with the win at UK.
"Anytime you beat a rival it's really good for your program and your players," Strong said. "We needed to make a move in our program and go into Commonwealth and beat them there. It was big and it should have been big. I'm glad we didn't play last week because I think they would still have been thinking about beating Kentucky and would have forgotten about their opponent. Now we can put that behind us and move forward."
Said Scruggs: "I completely agree (with Strong). For the first 24 hours, I celebrated, but then it's time to get back to work, so I'm kind of glad we had a chance to not ride that emotional high and hear the pats on the back about that. It feels great to know what we accomplished, but we've got a long season ahead of us and a bunch of games to play, so the open date was pretty good for us."