Louisville peaking, Southern Miss sliding

Updated: November 9, 2004, 1:21 PM ET
By Adam Rittenberg | Special to
Deep down, Louisville and Southern Miss knew the day would arrive.

Championship teams simply don't cruise through the league play without surviving a gut-check game. Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich put it best when, in speaking with the Courier-Journal, he labeled last Friday's matchup with Memphis "a trap."

The traps were laid last week for the Cardinals and the Golden Eagles, who faced two teams (Memphis and Cincinnati) desperate to shuffle the Conference USA title race. Louisville wriggled free by outlasting Memphis 56-49 in a shootout, while Southern Miss could not escape a 52-24 home loss to the Bearcats.

"This is the kind of game you have to win if you want to be a championship program," Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino said after his team won despite allowing 603 yards and 49 points.

"I can't say enough about our players and how they hung in there and kept competing. ... It was awesome to coach. It was a full day's work, and that's good."

The Cardinals are alone at the top after Southern Miss incurred its worst home loss in 13 years. Cincinnati snapped the Golden Eagles' 13-game league winning streak and punted the Eagles from the Top 25 rankings.

Louisville, meanwhile, soared to its highest ranking in history (No. 12 in the Associated Press poll) and can win the league title with wins over TCU, Houston and Cincinnati.