It wasn't until the 4th quarter that the team we know showed up to play. It took them three stanzas to get going, but the Cards finally put together a quarter of football UofL fans are accustomed to seeing. Stefan LeFors threw his first TD pass in three games, putting his TD/INT ratio at 2-to-1. Eric Shelton had his fourth 100-yard running game and helped the team amass a new season-high 305 rushing yards. Seldom used T.J. Patterson chipped in 50 yards, mostly on a 42 yard dash to the end zone as time expired. LeFors added 48 in his continued smart decision making. J.R. Russell again led the way among the receivers, making the TD grab to give the Cards some breathing room in the 4ht quarter.
During the dead time of the first 3 quarters, there were few highlights. There were too many false start penalties and too much of offensive ineffectiveness. If you had to pick some positives, it would be Ronnie Ghent and Tiger Jones making a couple of catches and more throws going Joshua Tinch's way.
The bottom line with the offense is that they got the job done when they had to. They didn't come to play the first half of the game. The Cards stalled in the red zone, settling for field goals when they should have put 7 on the board each time. The lack of enthusiasm was probably due in part to the Pirates' horrible record and in part to looking ahead to undefeated TCU. However, when the clock ticked down in the 4th quarter in Greenville, the Cards put it on them like they should've done much earlier.
Like the offense, it took the defense a while to get into a rhythm. This gang didn't look like the defense we saw against Tulane. The 450+ yards the Pirates racked up against the Cards marked the highest number put on them all season. The D-Line put minimal pressure on ECU's QB, giving the second highest accurate passer in the NCAA way too much time. He spent all afternoon picking UofL's defense apart on the short routes.
Not since the Syracuse game did the secondary allow the receivers that much room to operate. They allowed the Pirate offense to convert many opportunities on 3rd down, making that the primary weakness on the defensive side of the ball. Granted, ECU only scored 3 points in the first half, but the Cards allowed them to score to keep the game close until mid-way through the last quarter.
Mirroring their offensive counterparts, the defense got it going in the last frame, making plays when they had to. The Ville's defense stopped them on a couple of crucial 4th down plays, giving the offense a chance to win the game. They have got to play with more intensity and fire when they go to Fort Worth to battle TCU. I suspect Petrino and Co. have been preparing for this game like they did for UK and Syracuse and the defense will be ready to bring their "A" game.
Nate Smith connected on all 3 of his very important field goals keeping the Cards out in front until the offensive onslaught in the 4th quarter. That in itself was important in case UofL needs him to come through in another close game. Brent Moody was solid in his limited duties, as were the Cards in keeping ECU in check when it came to punt and kickoff returns.
To put it simply, the TCU game is the biggest one of the year. If the Cards want to return to Memphis and retain a lofty national ranking, they have to beat the Horned Frogs. The way TCU has man-handled the Cards in their only two meetings has been embarrassing. Louisville needs to put on a good show, protect its QB and teach the Toads that this years' UofL team is one to be reckoned with. UofL has performed well on ESPN this year; look for more of the same when these two hook up.