Why is Louisville's confidence on the rise after a 35-28 loss at Oregon State two weeks ago?
"I think we've picked a lot...up from the Oregon State game," said junior defensive end William Savoy. "We learned to believe that we can play if we go out there execute and listen to the coaches. We're going to take that on for the rest of the year. We gained a lot of confidence in that game."
Despite another road loss – Louisville's last victory away from Papa John's Cardinal Stadium came against Memphis 35-28 two years ago – the Cardinals played their best game of the young season against Oregon State, out-gaining the Beavers 453-319, while recording their highest-scoring output through three games.
Last week's bye came at a good time for a banged up team. The week off allowed a depth-challenged squad time to heal for Saturday's game against Arkansas State.
"We've had a week off and it has given our players a chance to heal," said UofL coach Charlie Strong. "We've had some bumps and bruises and it came at a really good time for us. We've played three football games. We played really well during our last game. Now, we're able to get focused and locked back into playing. We're going to practice this week and get ready to go and play Arkansas State. Our guys are real excited. The week off just gave them a chance to heal their bodies."
One player who won't be ready to play against ASU this weekend is leading wide receiver Doug Beaumont, who underwent knee surgery last week. He's expected to miss a few games while he recovers from the injury. With Beaumont out, junior college transfer Josh Bellamy, sophomore Andrell Smith and true freshman Jarrett Davis will be counted on to make plays in the passing game.
"Doug does a lot for us," said Strong. "What is key is we have other guys who have to step up and play. We have enough guys who have not been playing well and need to do their job and they understand that."
With improvement evident on both sides of the ball, Strong and his coaching staff used the bye-week to sharpen his team's fundamentals and techniques.
"What was great about last week was we did not have to prepare for anyone so fundamentals were a key," said Strong. "Getting back to the basics of tackling and catching the football was key for us. Guys can improve on it because we need to improve. There is a lot of fundamental and technique work to be done based on the first three games."
While his team has made progress, Strong wants to see his team cut down on turnovers, minimize their penalties and fix the special teams problems that allowed Oregon State return man James Rodgers to run loose. UofL has committed seven turnovers this season, to go along with 19 penalties the last two games.
"You like to see progress each week," Strong said. "You like to say you've played well the last game, but you need to be more consistent. We had nine dropped balls over the first two games and you cannot have that with a really good football team, along with five turnovers. We still need to become a more consistent football team. Each week we talk about improving."
With Big East action around the corner, Strong wants to see his team put things together in all three phases of the game and win on the road this week against Arkansas State. "You would like to think it is an advantage for us just coming off of the road from Oregon State and going back onto the road again," he said.
Arkansas State is coming off a 35-28 loss against Troy. The Red Wolves have given up lots of points and yards defensively, but have a dangerous offense led by quarterback Ryan Aplin, who averages 299 passing yards per game.
"We're looking for the drop back pass," Savoy said. "They throw the ball a lot. That is something we're going to execute on. We're going to get to get to the ball as soon as we can to prevent them from scoring."
Kickoff this Saturday is set for 7:00. The game will be shown online at ESPN3.com.