Watson takes over offense against UNC

Louisville (2-2) will look to continue their winning ways on the road Saturday at North Carolina (4-1). Before heading to UNC, Charlie Strong made a major staff change, replacing offensive coordinator Mike Sanford with Shawn Watson.

Charlie Strong's Louisville program has developed a troubling trend: The Cardinals are more comfortable on the road than at home.

Louisville is 9-8 since Strong took over last year, but just 4-6 at home.

The team's success on the road — the Cardinals are 5-2 away from home under Strong — is one of the few bits of solace Louisville (2-2) can take as they travel to North Carolina this week. Louisville lost 17-13 at home to Marshall on Saturday. The Cardinals' first home loss this season came against FIU, giving the Sun Belt conference school its first-ever victory against a team from a BCS automatic-qualifying conference.

Strong said he could see his team's lack of focus in the pre-game warm-up and that he should have pulled them back to the locker room then to get their attention before kickoff.

Louisville (2-2) vs. North Carolina (4-1)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 8; 12:00
Where: Keenan Stadium
TV: ESPN2
Radio: (WHAS 840/790 WKRD) will broadcast the game on radio, with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Tony Stallings (color) calling the action.
Next UofL Game: Saturday, October 15 against Cincinnati

Strong replaces Sanford with Watson
Before travelling to UNC, Charlie Strong made a major staff change replacing offensive coordinator Mike Sanford with quarterback coach Shawn Watson, who is in his first year at UofL after a stint as offensive coordinator at Nebraska.

Sanford wasn't at practice Tuesday or Wednesday and rumors of his surprising dismissal after just four games have been swirling all week. Strong, though, hasn't officially addressed the situation or given an explanation for replacing Sanford abruptly.

What isn't uncertain is that Louisville's offense has struggled this season, especially in home loss against FIU and Marshall. The Cardinals are averaging just 18.8 points per game this season, and rank 105th nationally in scoring offense, 91st in rushing , 86th in total offense and 116th in sacks allowed.

Watson is considered a ‘west-coast' offensive guy and has had success in the past with mobile quarterbacks.

"When we went to go play Kentucky we were totally focused. Nothing was going to take their mind of that game," Strong said of his team's outlook prior to the win against Wildcats, the program's first in four years. "Out here on Saturday, you're looking in the stands, high-fiving, jumping around. Certain groups were all yelling. I don't need that false enthusiasm. I need guys that are locked in and focused and ready to go play.

"And we had so much false enthusiasm out there on Saturday."

Strong was more animated following Saturday's game than at any point during his tenure at Louisville and he was still steamed Monday during his weekly press conference. Senior tight end Josh Chichester said Strong should be upset.

"He's boiling right now because we're not the team that we've been showing lately," Chichester said.

Besides a lack of focus, Strong said he couldn't single out a reason for his team's struggles.

He used Michigan's comeback win against Notre Dame earlier this season and Wisconsin's thrashing of Nebraska this weekend as examples of top programs' will to win in front of their own fans.

The qualities those demonstrated— toughness, smarts and discipline — Strong said are what he's looking for in his team and might help the Cardinals better defend their home turf. All were lacking against Marshall as Louisville managed just 60 yards on the ground, missed 24 assignments on defense alone, according to Strong, and committed a season-high 11 penalties.

Louisville has managed just seven second-half points at home this season, a fourth quarter score when trailing against FIU. Its offensive woes this season are evident when you look at the team's place in national rankings comparing the 120 FBS schools: 91st in rushing offense, 105th in scoring offense and 116th in sacks allowed.

"The stats, they don't lie," Strong said. "They tell you everything. You look at it: we're not doing a good job of moving the football. We're not doing a good job of running the ball. We're giving up a lot of sacks. Those stats are glaring."

Strong said guard John Miller, one of a handful of true freshmen nationally to start on the offensive line, would miss his second game after suffering an ankle injury against Kentucky. Starting quarterback Will Stein will be a game-time decision after also missing the Marshall game. Stein's shoulder injury gave Teddy Bridgewater his collegiate start against Marshall, making him Louisville's first true freshman to start under center since Stu Stram in 1976.

"We'll see if we can bounce back from losing here to going on the road now," Strong said of Saturday's trip to Chapel Hill. "It's really going to see the character of this football team, just exactly what we're made of."


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