While Miami didn't find much running room against Florida State, the Hurricanes churned out 339 yards on the ground against I-AA Florida A&M last weekend. Four Hurricanes running backs gained more than 60 yards against the Rattlers, led by junior Derron Thomas's 109 yards. Charlie Jones scored two touchdowns, and Tyrone Moss returned for the first time since tearing his ACL late last season against Virginia Tech.
"Offensively, (Miami) ran the ball well last week and executed their passing game," Petrino said. "Our defense is going to have to do a good job stopping the run and being able to play the deep ball. We know they're going to come in and try to throw the ball down the field."
When his top-rated offense has the ball, Petrino wants to attack Miami's fast defense with a balanced attack.
"We're going to mix it up," Petrino said. "We like to mix it up, particularly early in the game. We've got to try to throw the ball down the field a little bit more and we have to be able to run the ball. It's crucial to us to be able to run the ball."
Through two games, running the ball hasn't been a problem for the Cardinals, even without its top back, Michael Bush. Louisville ranks third nationally in rushing offense, gaining more than 300 yards in each of their first two games. Sophomore George Stripling leads U of L's rushing attack with 162 yards on only 18 carries (9 ypc.) and has scored four touchdowns.
"We've got to play as hard and as physical as we can," Petrino said. "I know they try to intimidate (opponents) with how hard they hit and how fast they are. We've got to be able to match that."
Petrino expects Miami to play lots of man-to-man coverage on his wide receivers, which should provide junior quarterback Brian Brohm plenty of opportunity to throw deep to playmakers like 6'6 Mario Urrutia and 5'11 Harry Douglas.
"We're going to have to do a good job getting off the line of scrimmage and getting down the field and making sure the quarterback understands where the safeties are," Petrino said. "They're going to present some opportunities to throw down the field if we can beat them and make the throw and catch."
Petrino said the timing of Louisville's passing attack needs to improve if it's to be effective against a tough Hurricane secondary, led by safeties Brandon Meriweather and Kenny Philips. The Cardinals rank sixth nationally in passing offense, throwing for 314 yards per game.
"There's not going to be huge windows (to throw)," Petrino said. "We're going to have to be able to feel the pocket and move in the pocket to get those passing lanes. (Brian) has got to be accurate with his passes and our receivers have to do a great job catching the ball. The timing of our passing game has got to be exactly where we want it. It hasn't been that way in the first two games."
If Louisville's offensive line can give Brohm time to find his receivers down field, the Cardinals could be in business against the Hurricanes.
"I've been happy with our offensive line," Petrino said. "I've think they've come along. We been able to run the ball and pass protect fairly well. We got a couple of hits on the quarterback the other day from the offensive line that I didn't like and two from the running backs, which we can not have. But for the most part they've played well. We haven't faced a defensive line like this, so it will be they're biggest challenge to date."