Cardinals Feeling Growing Pains

With their Big East opener fast approaching, Louisville head football coach Charlie Strong is watching his team go through some growing pains on and off the field.

Charlie Strong's second year at the helm at Louisville finds him not only dealing with poor play on the field but also issues with his coaching staff.

Last week Strong made a change within his staff as offensive coordinator Mike Sanford was relieved of his duties. Strong wasted little time on Monday addressing the issue.

"I just want to clear the air because I know this has become a hot topic, but there was no physical or verbal confrontation between Mike Sanford and myself," Strong said. "We are both professionals and are very mature. We've been in the business a long time. There are going to be arguments. There are going to be disagreements. I respect Mike. I respect him as a person. I respect his character. I respect who he is. But, the decision I made at that time I thought was in the best interest of this program for us to move forward.

"It is just like you in your business, you in your profession - people are reassigned all of the time and I just felt that it would make our team better and it would make our program better. We just want to move forward with it. Mike is still a part of this staff. I have not reassigned him a role yet, but he will be a part of this staff. Our task right now is that our concentration is on Cincinnati. What we have to do is try to find a way to go win a game on the road."

With a 2-3 overall record following a 14-7 loss at North Carolina last Saturday, Strong knows his team needs to be ready for the hot Bearcats who will enter the game with a 4-1 overall mark after their 27-0 win at Miami (Ohio) two weeks ago as the Bearcats have won three straight "Keg of Nails" between the two.

"Cincinnati is an outstanding football team," Strong said. "Offensively, they return five starters. They are very (multi-faceted) on offense. Their quarterback (Zach) Collaros can manage their offense. He has done a better job this year of scrambling, getting outside and throwing the football. They've got some outstanding receivers in (Anthony) McClung and (D.J.) Woods. The running back (Isaiah) Pead, if you remember last year, went for over 140 yards rushing against us. We have to tackle better in this game.

Not to be lost on Strong is the improving Bearcats defense.

"If you look at Cincinnati on defense, they return 11 starters. They are a really good defense. They do a good job of attacking. They blitz like us. They blitz a lot. They are third in the country in turnovers. They are getting a lot of turnovers; a ton of interceptions. It is going to be a task for our offense."

In their past two games the Cardinals have hurt themselves with penalties. Strong knows that much change if his team is to have a chance for victory.

"The thing that has really been our Achilles' heel is penalties," noted Strong. "When you look at it, I think over the last four games we are at nine penalties a game. It is either a penalty on defense that allows an offense to drive the ball, or offensively, we are getting stopped because we are not able to continue to drive the ball down the field. That is what we need to do - we've got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. That is what we are doing with all of these penalties right now on offense. I know this - we have some injuries, but it's still no excuse."

Another glaring weakness has been the Cardinals lack of a running game as Louisville enters the game averaging only 116 yards per game on the ground and knowing the Bearcats defense ranks in the top 20 nationally allowing only 71 yards per game.

"At the running back position, we haven't had a runner yet go over 100 yards," said Strong. "We have to do a better job of rushing the ball. What's happening to us offensively is people are able to load the box because we are not running the ball. It is making us one dimensional and we have to throw the ball. Now, they are bringing a lot of pressure and that is where you are getting the sacks and pressure from."

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