Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino visited with the media following his team's Monday evening practice inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Here's a quick notebook on his comments.
Petrino briefly addressed the health status of a pair of his upperclassmen receivers. Jamari Staples, expected to be one of the team's top receivers, and James Quick, who suffered an injury against Auburn, are both sidelined for the weekend.
“They will not be available,” Petrino said.
Staples, a UAB transfer, has struggled with an injury since fall camp. Having played in a similar offense while Garrick McGee was the head coach in Birmingham, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound junior would add valuable experience to a youth-filled receiving corp.
As the start of the 2015 season approached, there was little concern about how well the defense would perform. Despite losing multiple players to the NFL, the belief was this rebuilt squad could surpass the highly-rated defense of 2014.
In the team's first outing of the season, the defense displayed flashes of the high preseason expectations. Auburn was held to 327 total yards, a respectable amount that ranks among the lowest for the Tigers in quite some time. A trio of interceptions and other individual performances gave hope that the 'hands full' defense was close to fully emerging.
Then Houston happened.
The Cardinals missed many tackles and allowed the Cougars to rush for 226 yards, much of that coming directly up the middle of the defense. The performance, or lack thereof, caught most by surprise. The more than 50,000 on hand were subdued for much of the game and Petrino admitted that they appeared out of character.
“Defensively, we couldn’t get them stopped in the fourth quarter when we came back and took the lead a couple of times,” he further explained on Monday. “That generally doesn’t happen to our defense. We couldn’t get off the field on third down and we missed too many tackles.”
The Cardinals currently rank No. 76 in the nation in total defense, giving up 394.5 yards a game. Rush defense? Much scarier. Surrendering 208 yards on the ground per outing, the Cardinals check in at No. 104. (To help you feel better, Kentucky ranks six spots lower.)
Putting the past behind them
For the Cardinals, on both sides of the ball to perform at their expected levels, the players, and coaches, must forget about the two disappointing losses to start the season. To get things started, the team reported on Sunday and practiced during the evening.
Following Monday evening's practice, Petrino provided a positive report on how the team has responded this week.
“One thing I can tell you, the players came out last night, the quickest turnaround ever, had a good attitude, practiced hard, practiced hard again tonight,” he said. “Tomorrow will be a normal Thursday for us, we’ll cut down a little bit. But the guys came back and worked extremely hard to get ready for this game, so we’ve put it all behind us and we’re looking forward and moving in the right direction, I think.”
An 0-2 start is something that this team hasn't experienced before. Heck, a U of L player hasn't experienced such a start since Bobby Petrino sat in the U of L coaches booth at the program's offensive coordinator for the 1998 season, so disappointment is to be expected.
“Sunday was real quiet,” Petrino said. “They came in and ate dinner, there wasn’t a whole lot being said. Walk in the team meeting room, there’s not a whole lot being said. You feel bad, I always envy basketball and baseball when they get to go out and play the next night and get it all behind you. But I thought they did a real nice job of understanding that we need to put it behind us, come out Sunday night, have a good attitude, work hard and earn the right to win on the practice field. We’ve had two good practices, so I’m excited about that.”
Week three and the discussion continues to circle around just who will be the starting quarterback. The media received no indication which player will get the call for Thursday night.
“I think I know who the quarterback is, but we told them they would get their reps in practice, we would grade the reps,” Petrino said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to the quarterbacks yet, so obviously I’m not going to tell anyone else before I talk to the quarterbacks and tell them.”
For more on the quarterbacks, click here.
Leadership surfaces in difficult situations. We've seen it in numerous moments throughout our lives. For this Louisville team, Petrino hopes this current moment in the season will inspire those upperclassmen to lift those around them.
“I think it’s one of the key things is the leadership ability within the team,” he said. “That’s one of the things I try to make sure the players understand, that they’ve got to take over the leadership, they’ve got to do their responsibility and their obligation to their teammates. This is the only time this team is going to be together and the seniors and juniors that have been around, they’ve got to see if they want to make it a special season or not.”