Louisville coach Charlie Strong has talked plenty about the challenges of keeping his young team focused each week.
This Saturday presents a unique challenge in itself. Some 23 players with ties to the South Florida area will play in a homecoming game of sorts when the No. 20 Cardinals travel to play at Florida International in Miami. Among those making a homecoming: quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, whose hot start to the season has drawn early Heisman talk.
"What's going to be positive is their families are going to be there, so at least we feel like we're going to have a little crowd because of the number of players we have from south Florida," Strong said at his news conference this week. "But, one of the issues can be that they are all going to want to see them and be around them. I have some time blocked out for them to see their families, but this is a business trip. We can't have that pleasure. When you have the time to go visit with them, then go visit with them. Still though, we've got to get on with our business, too."
Last week, Louisville saw what happens when you lose focus, as North Carolina rallied in the second half to turn a 36-7 blowout into a 39-34 nail-biter. Last season, Strong talked about his team losing focus during a loss to Pittsburgh during a week that coincided with the release of a video game. It also happened to come a week after a huge victory against West Virginia.
While the Cardinals are another year older, they still are relatively young. What should help with the focus this week are memories of their matchup last season, when FIU notched the first win in program history against an automatic qualifying conference. Bridgewater, by the way, was still the backup quarterback in that game.
"I remember seeing a team that came here and sucked the breath out of us," Bridgewater said this week. "They defeated us on our home turf, and it's something that we want revenge on, but they are a team that plays with a lot of energy."
Louisville cannot afford to be distracted or lose focus this week. The Cardinals know all too well what could happen if they do.