With bye, Cards turn focus to improvement

With no game on tap this weekend, No. 12 Louisville will use the extra week to make some needed changes and improvement before hosting Oregon State September 17.

After allowing almost all of a 21-point halftime lead to slip through their grasp Sunday in a 31-24 win over rival Kentucky, U of L coach Bobby Petrino already has a list of items for improvement that his team will begin working on in practice today.

Petrino, during his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, outlined the three most pressing areas for improvement:

  • Special teams play;
  • Communication on defense;
  • Getting big plays from his offense

    Petrino said the play of his special teams was his "biggest disappointment" against Kentucky, particularly during the second half when the Wildcats cut U of L's 28-7 half time lead to 31-24 late in the fourth quarter.

    "We're really going to work on our special teams," said Petrino. "I was really disappointed with the speed, effort and execution we had on special teams in the second half."

    Petrino noted three key special team's errors that could have cost his team the game, including two fourth miscues, Todd Flanery's blocked punt and Broderick Clark's decision to leave the end zone on a kick return. Petrino said personnel changes on special teams will likely come this week.

    "We have to be more accountable," he said. "I think we have to make some (personnel) changes. There are a few guys that we need to change and give some young guys a chance in there."

    Petrino called Clark's fourth quarter
    decision to return a kick that sailed
    into the end zone a "critical error."

    Petrino also wasn't pleased with the communication of his secondary, promising that considerable effort would be made to improve that aspect before the next game.

    "We're going to work on our defensive communication to make sure we don't turn guys loose in (coverage)," explained Petrino. "There was one play where they got a long, long gain at a critical part of the game on third and nine. We were in the right coverage but we had two errors that turned a guy loose down the middle and our coverage should have prevented that from happening."

    And while Kentucky had 5 plays that went for 200 yards in the game, Petrino said he wants to see more big plays from his offense. The coach seemed to hoist the blame squarely on the shoulders of his wide receivers for the lack of big gains against UK. He also admitted that his play calling was on the conservative side to protect sophomore quarterback Brian Brohm, who made his first start against the Wildcats.

    "Offensively, we want to continue to work on making big plays," Petrino said. "I think we only had 38-40 yards after the catch and that's not like our offense. We need to get more yards after the catch."

    And while Petrino talked primarily about the areas his team needs improvement, he was pleased with the way his team performed in several key areas.

    "We did a lot of really good things," he said. "We had seven sacks, we converted 60-percent of our third downs, and we had a first time starting quarterback complete 70-percent of his passes with no turnovers. I also really liked the way Michael Bush and Kolby Smith ran the ball at the end of the game."

    The Cardinals now return to the practice field where they'll have nearly two full weeks to prepare for Oregon State, who plays Boise State this weekend. Petrino said his team will use the extra week of practice to improve fundamentally, as well as begin preparations for the Beavers.

    "We're going to spend a lot of good, hard time in the video room going through our grades," Petrino explained. "Then we'll go out and condition and go out these next few days and really work hard on our fundamentals, techniques and getting better."

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