Ranked 8th nationally and off to a perfect 4-0 start, the Cardinals travel to Nashville to face MTSU at LP Field, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans. Louisville should enter the contest rejuvenated after having last week off.
"I thought we had a very productive off week," Petrino said. "We worked on our fundamentals and group drills that will help us improve the rest of the year. We went one's against one's some in practice and it was good work for our run and pass blocking, our pass rush and run defense."
In their last outing, Louisville, with backup quarterback Hunter Cantwell making his first start of the season, knocked off Kansas State, 24-6, in Manhattan despite committing three second half turnovers.
Middle Tennessee (3-2) enters game on the heels of a, 35-0, win over North Texas last week. It was the second time the Blue Raiders have shut out an opponent this season, though they did allow 59 points in a loss to Oklahoma two weeks ago.
"Middle Tennessee looks good on video," Petrino said. "They're defense blitzes all the time, they fly around and they completely shut down North Texas. Oklahoma had success running the ball at them, but they haven't given up a lot of plays or yardage defensively."
Despite a rushing attack that averages less than 100 yards per game, Petrino said it will be important for his defense to shut down MTSU's ground game. That's something U of L defenders have done particularly well this season, allowing just 52.5 yards per game on the ground, fifth-best nationally.
"It's going to be important for us to shut the run down," Petrino said. "They're going to come in and try to run the ball. They've got a couple of little running backs that are very quick and explosive. And they will take some shots down the field."
Offensively, Petrino wants to see better execution and proficiency from his offense than he saw at Kansas State. Cantwell, who has stepped in for the injured Brian Brohm, was solid, completing 18-26 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown against the Wildcats. He also threw one interception deep in Kansas State territory.
"Hunter did some really nice things in the Kansas State game," Petrino said. "He distributed the ball well, threw for a very high percentage and took care of the football except for the one interception."
With Brohm sidelined for another week or two, Petrino plans to get Cantwell's backup, junior Pat Carter, some meaningful action against MTSU. Carter, a starting wide receiver and punt return specialist, has caught three passes this season.
defense have been outstanding
"I would like to get Patrick Carter in the game," Petrino said. "I would like to be able to find a series in the second or third quarter where the game is still on the line and get him in the game and see how he executes."
While the U of L offense finds it way with Cantwell at the controls, Petrino has extreme confidence in his defense, a unit that has allowed just 13 points in the last three games and seems to get better each time out.
"Our defense is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now," Petrino said. "We're playing very fast and everybody understands their role, the scheme and doing their job. The biggest improvement is that everybody understands exactly what they're supposed to do and executing it together."
"And we're stopping the run," Petrino added. "Any time you stop the run and make the quarterback throw the ball you have a great chance."
The game will be televised on ESPN2. Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m.
INJURY UPDATE Redshirt freshman defensive end Jonathan Holston returned to practice this week and is expected to be available for action against MTSU. Sophomore defensive tackle Adrian Grady, who broke his leg against Kentucky, also returned to practice and will be a pre-game decision. Rod Council probably won't play Friday but would likely be ready for action against Cincinnati next week. Linebacker Abe Brown and safety Jon Russell will play.
NOTES True freshman Latarrius Thomas will likely return kickoffs for the time this season against MTSU. Thomas, the starting free safety, steps in for Sergio Spencer and Rod Council. Both Spencer and Council are out with injury…..Spencer, who broke his ankle against Kansas St., is out for about the next three weeks…..Louisville will be making its fourth appearance on national television this season. Louisville had 10 nationally televised last year…..Louisville has rushed for 17 touchdowns this season, which leads the country…..The Cardinals rank fifth nationally in rushing offense, 16th in passing offense, 2nd in total offense, first in scoring offense, 5th in rushing defense, 20th in passing efficiency defense, 23rd in total defense and eighth in scoring defense…..