Cards hoping to control TCU in the trenches

Coming off an emotional 56-49 victory over Memphis last Thursday night, the No. 12 Louisville Cardinals (6-1) hope to win their third consecutive game on ESPN tonight against nemesis TCU (4-4).

Coming off an emotional 56-49 victory last Thursday against rival Memphis at the Liberty Bowl, the University of Louisville faces a quick turnaround tonight when they take on recent nemisis TCU at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Entering the game atop the Conference USA standings with a perfect 4-0 league record, the Cardinals have had just five days to prepare for a Horned Frogs team that has beaten them each of the last three times the teams have met, including a 31-28 setback last season.

If the short turnaround for U of L coach Bobby Petrino's troops weren't enough of an obstacle tonight, the fact that Gary Patterson's troops have had 11 days to get ready for tonight's showdown probably is.

"It's a real short turnaround and it's something that we're concerned about," Petrino admitted.

To compensate for the lack of preparation time, Petrino gave his team the day off last Friday, eased back his practice regimen to keep his players fresh for tonight's game and devoted extra time in the video room to TCU.

What Petrino and the 12th ranked Cardinals saw on video this week of TCU was a team that appears physically better than their 4-4 record would indicate.

"They're a good football team," Petrino said. "When you watch them on video you wonder how they're 4-4 because they've got tremendous speed offensively, two very good quarterbacks that have won a bunch of games for them, and two real good running backs."

Lonta Hobbs (TCU)
Led by quarterback Brandon Hassell, who threw for 258 yards against the Cardinals last season, wide receivers Reggie Harrell and Cory Rodgers and running backs Lonta Hobbs and Robert Merrill, the Horned Frogs have had little trouble producing points this season. They enter the game averaging more than 32 points per outing and rank among the nation's Top 25 in several key statistical offensive categories.

"TCU is a very fast tempo offense," Petrino said. "They break the huddle very quick and get to the line of scrimmage and will snap the ball right away sometimes. They have a very different style than Memphis. They're very effective at what they do and they also run the option. We'll have to tackle better than we did [against Memphis]."

TCU's problems this season and the major reason they've lost four games is their usually strong defense. Allowing more than 400 yards total offense per game, 306 through the air, the Horned Frogs rank near the bottom end nationally in total and pass defense.

"Defensively, they're real fast," Petrino added. "The have the same guys essentially back from the defense we played last year. They play a physical brand of football."

Despite losing the past three games against the Horned Frogs, including blowout losses in 2001 and 2002, Petrino felt his team gained confidence from last season's near miss in Fort Worth that could prove the difference tonight.

"I felt during the game last year that our players were like 'wow, maybe we can do this,'"Petrino explained. "We started getting more and more confidence as the game went on and I think we now believe we can match up with them physically."

In order to remain unbeaten in the league, Petrino says his offense will have to do a good job of controlling the ball, especially with the running game. On defense, Petrino knows his troops will have to apply better pressure to TCU quarterback Brandon Hassell than they did last week against Memphis' Danny Wimprine.

"We definitely need to control the line of scrimmage with our offensive line and running backs," Petrino said. "And defensively, we're going to have to get pressure on the quarterback. If we don't do that it's going to be a very difficult game."

Having allowed more than 600 yards and 49 points in their last outing against Memphis, the U of L defense, according to Petrino, has been focused this week during practice to make the necessary adjustments and improvements on the field.

"They've been working hard in practice," Petrino said of the defense. "I think they'll continue to have confidence. They didn't perform as they had previously but they did make a lot of plays against Memphis that allowed us to win."

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