Free-falling from 11,000 feet one afternoon in mid-July, John L.
Smith wouldn't pull his rip cord. The 53-year-old Cardinals coach
and rookie sky diver, who enjoys life by pushing it to the limit
(he has also run with the bulls in Pamplona), had already fallen
5,000 feet, but he ignored instructors yelling at him to pull the
cord. "I guess I was enjoying the ride a little too much," says
Smith, who landed safely thanks to an instructor who pulled the
cord for him.
Expect Smith and Louisville to have a similarly exciting ride
this season. Coming off an 11-2 season, the Cardinals have high
hopes with Heisman Trophy candidate Dave Ragone (3,056 yards, 23
TDs in 2001) at quarterback and 10 starters returning from an
underappreciated defense. A Sept. 26 home game against Florida
State has Louisville setting its sights on making another big
jump, to BCS contender.
With the pass-happy offense forced to replace four starters on
the line and two receivers, defense is Louisville's strength. The
4-3 unit has become a fast, blitzing, ball-hawking group that
ranked 10th in the country last season in scoring defense (17.9
ppg). The star is 6'3", 277-pound junior end Dewayne White, last
year's Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. White uses a
combination of quickness and strength to get to the quarterback.
Last season he was second in the nation with 15 sacks. "He
doesn't know any better," says senior end Devon Thomas. "Coach
will say, 'I need you to take out the center, the fullback and
make the tackle, too.' He'll say, 'Yes sir,' and do it."
If White can get his teammates to adopt that attitude, Louisville
should be in for an exciting ride. --G.M.
COLOR PHOTO: JOE ROBBINS STALKER Laroni Gallishaw, who had five interceptions in '01, is just one of the big-time ball-hawkers on a standout Cardinals defense.
2001 RECORD: 11-2 (6-1, 1st in Conference USA)
FINAL RANKING: No. 17 AP, No. 16 coaches' poll
Career interceptions for senior free safety Anthony Floyd, most
among current I-A players and a team and conference record.
An opposing coach's view
The running game is the big question facing the Cardinals
"Quarterback Dave Ragone really understands their offense. He's a
good decision-maker and throws well on the move.... Tight end
Ronnie Ghent runs good routes and is a solid blocker.... A
balanced running game is critical to that offense. The big
question is: do they have a reliable tailback?... Defensive end
Dewayne White is a pass-rushing monster. Coming off the edge like
he does really disrupts things.... They expect their safeties to
be big hitters, and free safety Anthony Floyd is a very physical
guy who covers a lot of ground."
Sept. 1 KENTUCKY
7 at Duke
14 at Colorado State
21 at Army
26 FLORIDA STATE
Oct. 8 at Memphis
26 EAST CAROLINA
Nov. 7 CINCINNATI
14 at Southern Miss
30 at Houston