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The turning point for Louisville

Louisville coach Charlie Strong was fed up with talking. After his team got off a 2-4 start, he wanted to hear what his players had to say about what was going wrong.

The Cardinals had just lost their third straight game, a 25-16 setback to league rival Cincinnati. Louisville had led 16-7 at halftime, but failed to score a single point in the second half, and watched Isaiah Pead bust the game open with a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Who would have thought then that a loss in that game would keep the Cardinals from clinching a BCS berth?

At the time, Strong was wondering how his team would win another game -- not reach a BCS bowl. He called his seniors in for a meeting that Thursday, the night before they were set to play Rutgers.

"I told them ... I want some players to stand up and I want the players to tell me what's wrong with this football team. Anthony Conner was the first player to stand up. That's the game he got injured in. Players remembered what he said ... it was just the leadership our seniors developed. They took the young players in because they knew they wouldn't be able to win without them."

Conner, a senior cornerback, ended up breaking his neck following a scary collision with Mohamed Sanu. He lay on the ground for several minutes before he was carted off the field. Nobody knew whether he would be OK, but the players resolved to win the game for Conner.

They did. Louisville closed the season 5-1, and Conner has been a player this team has rallied around. Conner underwent surgery to stabilize his spine shortly after he got hurt, and a full recovery is expected. He has been on the sideline wearing a neck brace, helping coach up his teammates.

Strong cites that Thursday night meeting as the turning point to the season.