Simply, it time for Louisville to get serious and start living up to its potential before it's too late.
The Cardinals are at winless Army (0-2) Saturday in their Conference USA opener before returning home next Thursday against fifth-ranked Florida State (3-0). Given the preseason hype surrounding coach John L. Smith's team, many are wondering what the heck is going on with the Cardinals.
"We thought going in -- without trying to bust a bubble and tell everybody that -- 'Hey, we're not all that good,'" Smith said. "We're just not, and we have a ways to go."
Louisville, which entered the season with a No. 18 national ranking and high hopes, has an opportunity to get back on track against Army, which was blown out by Rutgers 44-0 last Saturday. For the second straight week, turnovers plagued Army. The Cadets had four - including three interceptions by freshman quarterback Zac Dahman - to give Rutgers 28 points.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, fell to Colorado State 36-33. While Louisville finally forced four turnovers after failing to force any in the two previous games, but the Rams also rolled for 470 yards against a Louisville defense that returned 10 starters. Louisville trailed 36-14 in the fourth quarter before rallying to within 36-33 by scoring 19 points in less than two minutes.
"Our defense took a pounding," Smith said. "Some of our defensive players are playing real good, some not. As a group, they're average; not real poor, not real good. I knew our offense would need time, but I expected our defense to take the challenge and rise to the occasion. I'm surprised they haven't answered that challenge."
Quarterback Dave Ragone managed to complete 22 of 41 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw an interception and took a beating physically. The Cardinals have had problems establishing a running game and they've already been whistled for 31 penalties in three games.
"Our defense knew that they were going to have to carry us for the first half of the season, and that's who we have to appeal to," Smith said. "They've got to find a way to dig down and keep us in ballgames. ... We tried to sit down and make a point to the team that it's not offense (at fault), it's not defense, it's not special teams, it's not one person. It's all of us that have to do our jobs, starting with the coaching and all the way through."
After Smith said that coaching was the primary reason for the Cards' slow start, several players politely disagreed.
"Coaches coach and players play," Ragone said. "Coach Smith is a head coach, and he's not going to point fingers at his players. He assumes responsibility, and that's noble. But the 11 guys on offense, 11 on defense and 11 on special teams are the ones to blame. You can have the perfect schemes and draw them up perfectly on the chalkboard, but if the players don't execute them, ultimately the coaches get the blame. And that's not fair."