Following a week off, Louisville will look to build on its win at NC State and improve to .500 on the season as it prepares to visit Florida State. Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino discussed the team's week off and previewed the Saturday's game against the 11th-ranked Seminoles.
During his opening statement, U of L head coach Bobby Petrino was quick to admit that among the challenges that Florida State presents, containing sophomore running back Dalvin Cook.
Cook, who Petrino described as "extremely fast, extremely powerful," is racking up some staggering numbers through five games. His 792 yards not only ranks sixth in the nation, it's also the second most rushing yards by an ACC back through the season's first five games since 1996. His 158 yards per game average is second best in the country.
"I know we have a great challenge ahead of us going to Florida State and playing against a great football team," Petrino said. "Obviously, our defense has a great challenge trying to stop a really, really good running back."
Cook has topped the 200-yard mark twice this year and the 100-yard mark four times in five games. His eight rushing touchdowns places him among the nation's top 15.
He's also dangerous in the passing game, where he has seven catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.
"The combination of strength and speed, he can catch the ball in his hands and I know that he's made a lot of plays a lot of different ways," said Petrino.
While the Seminoles have a first year quarterback guiding their offense, the Cardinals are familiar with the graduate transfer's abilities.
Everett Golson was behind center for Notre Dame when Louisville met the Irish in South Bend last season. The 6-foot, 200-pound senior was16 of 24 for 236 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 31-28 loss to the Cardinals.
His play has been vital for the Seminoles perfect start to the season.
"One thing that he has done a good job of this year is taking care of the football," said Petrino.
In five games for Florida State, Golson has completed 67 percent of pass attempts for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns without throwing an interception.
Statistically, the Louisville rushing attack has steadily improved through the season's first five games. The Cardinals enter Saturday's game averaging 164 yards per outing and while that total is inching closer to the type of numbers that the offense needs to become more consistent. However, the issue is that Lamar Jackson leads the team with 435 yards from his quarterback position.
Louisville's top three running backs - Brandon Radcliff, L.J. Scott and Jeremy Smith - have combined for just 71 yards per game. Also among the areas that the team focused on during the off week was getting better carries for the running backs.
"We have to work on our execution and be able to establish a running game that isn't just the quarterback carrying the ball," said Petrino. "That's what we worked hard on the last four practices."
Following a high school career that saw asked him to be under center, Louisville's dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson has struggled making the adjustment since arriving at in the Derby City. Being able to read the defense and making a smooth running back exchange on handoffs, among other variances, are executed differently when under center or in shotgun formation.
The off weekend provided additional opportunities to gain valuable reps for Jackson under center.
"We've been working on it," Petrino explained. "That was one of the things we focused on this week. Being able to operate the offense from under center, get to the right exchange points, utilize play-action and those things, so we've been working hard at that, too."
Transfer wide receiver Jamari Staples was expected to become an important member of the U of L offense was the season and drew positive reviews for his efforts since arriving from UAB in January. During the final weeks of fall camp, Staples suffered an injury and subsequently missed the season's first four games.
The 6-foot-4 junior made his Cardinal debut against NC State, totaling two receptions for 22 yards.
"It was great having him back," Petrino said. "He really understand the offense, he is tall and fast and catches the ball away from his body and his hands. We understand that whenever he is out there, he is going to do what the offense calls for."