ITV Gallery: Tuesday's Practice"> ITV Gallery: Tuesday's Practice">

Grading their performance

Steve Richey takes a look back at the Cardinals 30-20 win at Syracuse and grades each unit's performance. <P> <B>EXTRA: <a href="">ITV Gallery: Tuesday's Practice</b></a><img src="">

Quarterback: (A-) With only two collegiate starts as a junior, Stefan LeFors has put to rest any doubts that he can run this offense.

Stefan LeFors (AP)
He only threw a hand full of bad passes against Syracuse with one interception, but his overall performance was very good. He made great reads and checked to the correct plays at the line of scrimmage.

Running Backs: (A) Eric Shelton has back to back 100 yards + games with many of those yards after first contact. He has been taking advantage of the improved offensive line and the two-back set Coach Bobby Petrino has implemented. He finished the Syracuse game with 24 carries for 135 yards and did it with Syracuse putting extra players in the box to stop the run. With Shelton doing so well in the game, Lionel Gates saw limited action with 4 carries for 9 yards. One impressive statistic so far is that the team has no fumbles through it first two games.

Wide Receivers: (A) J.R. Russell, Joshua Tinch and Broderick Clark combined for 12 receptions for 229 yards on the day, with each receiver averaging over 20 yards per catch. Both Tinch and Clark made some spectacular receptions with yards after the catch. JR Russell had a career high with 133 yards receiving on 6 receptions, including one that appeared to initially be intercepted. With Syracuse concentrating on the run early in the game, it gave the receivers one-on-one coverage on the outside and they proved ready to step up and make plays.

Tight Ends: (B) Not sure why the tight end is not being utilized more in the offense, but there is room for improvement. Louisville has two senior tight ends and they only managed 2 receptions for 12 yards in the game. The high mark is due to the intangibles both these tight ends bring with pass blocking and run blocking.

Offensive Line: (A) This group is coming together very quickly and is a big part of why Louisville has started the season 2-0.

OL Coach Mike Summers
Eric Shelton has had many holes to run through which is a tribute to the solid work that the offensive line has put in during the off season. Stefan LeFors has time to throw the ball and is getting minimal pressure put on him through the first two contests, having been sacked only once.

Defensive Line: (B-) There was pressure on the quarterback at times, but the run defense gave up too many yards to warrant a higher grade. A number of times Syracuse just ran right up the middle for big gains. Syracuse finished the game with 232 yards rushing with a per carry average of 5.7 yards. The good news is it was a bend but don't break defensive day and even with giving up 454 yards of total offense, Syracuse only mustered 20 points.

Linebackers: (B+) The linebackers had a tough assignment to go up against an offense with so many different sets and looks. This group is coming together and looks to be two deep at each position. Deriontae Taylor is a true freshman that is making an impact early in his career. Rod Day, Robert McCune and Brandon Johnson were all over the field covering receivers, tight ends and helping with run support.

Defensive Backs: (B+) Gavin Smart was beat a couple of times, but overall had a very good game. Smart was matched up against Johnnie Morant, Syracuse's big wide receiver, much of the game and held his own. Morant did finish the game with 8 receptions for 141 yards, but the rest of the receivers had only 9 receptions for 70 yards. R.J. Anderson, Syracuse's quarterback, had trouble finding the open man a number of times during the game. Josh Minkins continues to show his leadership on the field and the two safeties, Brent Johnson and Kerry Rhodes, both have picked up this defense very well.

Special Teams: (A-) With a lack luster performance at kick returner by Broderick Clark against Kentucky, the sophomore came ready to play against Syracuse. He had 4 returns for 134 yards with his longest return of 51 yards in the game. Louisville only had two punt return chances in the game. Brent Moody, another true freshman, came in and did a great job for his first start. Moody had 3 punts for 143 yards for a 47.7 yards per punt average and a long of 55 yards. With little punt return yards and the kickoff return team giving up 28.5 yards per return brought the overall special teams grade down.

Penalties: (A) Once again Louisville has proven it can keep penalties under control and finished the Syracuse game with only 5 penalties for 21 yards. I would say this may be the most improved area from last year's team which was one of the leaders in penalties all year long. In the first two games of the 2003 season Louisville has only committed 9 penalties for 56 yards.

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