Louisville offense feels 'sense of urgency'

Louisville offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said after practice Wednesday that the Cardinals feel a 'sense of urgency' to fix the running game. InsideTheVille.com has the scoop from practice.

Charlie Strong says that Saturday's game against Kentucky will be won in the trenches.

That being the case, Louisville offensive coordinator Mike Sanford knows he has to find a way to quickly improve the Cardinals rushing attack, which generated only 83 yards on 41 carries, a meager 2.2. yards per carry, in last Friday's 24-17 loss to Florida International.

"There's a sense of urgency about getting our run game fixed and being able to run the football," Sanford said Wednesday after practice. "I think what happened in this last game is we ended up getting into a situation where we needed to throw and we ended up throwing probably more than I would have liked in that game.

"But we've got to get better in the run game. No question about it. I think it's a combination of blocking, running, and our receivers blocking. We've just got to do a better job in the run game."

Louisville's young, inexperienced offensive line has received much of the blame for the Cardinals lack of success on the ground. Though that unit hasn't performed up to par, Sanford seems to be sticking with his five first-year starters up front.

"The big thing right now is improving the guys that we have," said Sanford.

Sanford's obvious focus in practice this week has been trying to fix UofL's unproductive rushing attack. He also knows that his offense has to successfully pick up Kentucky's blitzes and not commit turnovers to have a chance to upset the Wildcats on Saturday in Lexington.

Louisville feels a sense of urgency to fix the running game this week in practice.
"I think the first thing we've got to be able to do is run the football," Sanford said. "We've got to make big plays in the passing game and we can't turn the ball over. And we've got to be able to block all of their movement and blitzes. Those are the keys."

Despite Louisville's lack of production on the ground and inability to score touchdowns – UofL is averaging only 19 points per game – Sanford has been pleased with the toughness that quarterback Will Stein has shown. Stein has completed 45-of-75 passes for 575 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception.

"The biggest thing is he's shown great competitiveness and toughness," Sanford said. "He was a little beat up in the first game and came right back from an ankle injury and played hurt. Obviously, all of us can get better. But he's done a great job competitively and led our offense."

Heading into Saturday's big rivalry game, Sanford saw some "good" signs of improvement from his offense during practice Wednesday.

"We've just got to go out and play like we can play," Sanford said. "I think we know we have the athletes and the talent. We've just got to get it all going on the same page at the same time and make big plays. It's a combination of making the 4, 5 and 6 yard runs and connecting on some big plays."

Kentucky's defense, directed by new defensive coordinator Rick Minter, is playing a more aggressive, attacking style this season. The Wildcats rank ninth nationally in scoring defense, allowing only eight points per game, and rank tenth in the nation in pass efficiency defense. UK has intercepted an amazing six passes against Western Kentucky and Central Michigan.

"They're very different than they were last year," Sanford said. "Last year they were a true four down front. This year they're more of a 3-4 front – more pressure this year and they're a heck of a defense. I think they're grasping it (new defense), but people have had some success doing some things against them. Western Kentucky and Central Michigan did some good things against them. But (Kentucky) stopped them when they need to and that's the mark of a good defense."

Central Michigan found some success against Kentucky's defense with screen and misdirection plays.

"Not only do they rush with defensive linemen, they do a lot of blitzes and edge pressures," Sanford said. "You've got to be able to neutralize that a number of different ways and Central Michigan did a nice job of that. We've got to do a good job up front with…our center and guards. I feel good about those guys. We've got to be able to control the game inside."

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