Now ranked seventh nationally, Bobby Petrino's team took some heat from the media for only beating the Blue Raiders by four touchdowns. That's right Louisville won the game, 44-17. In the process, the Cardinals gained 526 yards, threw for 340 yards, averaged 8.3 yards per play, held MTSU to 83 yards rushing, and converted 54 percent on third down.
"If that's an underachieving performance, I'll take it," Petrino said Monday afternoon.
Perhaps Petrino's biggest concern heading into Big East conference play this weekend against Cincinnati is getting his offenses running attack back on track. After opening the season with a pair of 300-plus yard rushing performances against Kentucky and Temple, the Cardinals have watched their production on the ground fall ‘off' the past two weeks.
While Louisville rushed for 228 yards against Kansas State, the Cardinals managed just 186 yards on the ground against Middle Tennessee – 70 of which came by freshman Anthony Allen on the games final drive.
"I'd like to run the ball better than we did, but when you're the No. 1 offense in the country you're going to see different things on a weekly basis than what people have shown on video," Petrino said. "That's kind of what has happened the last couple of weeks is that they've come out and run a little different package, and have done some things that would be considered unsound, but geared to stop some of our running game."
Petrino said MTSU stacked the box heavily to slow down the Cardinals on the ground. In the first half, Petrino stubbornly elected to keep pounding the ball at MTSU on the ground. Up just 23-10 at the break, Petrino changed his thinking in the second half. That move showed immediate results on the scoreboard as the U of L offense scored three second half touchdowns.
"One thing maybe I need to do is not be as stubborn with the run," Petrino said. "In the third quarter, I just said forget it and throw it every down and we went right down and scored. If they don't cover the passing game and want only to stop the run you've just got to throw the ball."
Louisville threw 31 passes and ran 32 times against MTSU. "We probably should have thrown it every down," Petrino added.
offensive weapon for Bobby Petrino's
Petrino might have found another offensive weapon in Allen during the second half against MTSU. Allen showed a physical style, breaking a string of tackles on a 16-yard touchdown for the games final score. In limited action this season, Allen is third on the team in rushing with 174 yards on just 25 carries. He's also rushed for two touchdowns.
"I really like the way we ran it in the second half," Petrino said. "We kind of changed up a little and ran more down hill. We put Anthony Allen in there and really went straight down hill. The problem with the second half was we only had 22 plays, but they were trying to hold the ball and the officials were allowing 45-50 seconds before they marked the ball in play. Their plan was to shorten the game and don't get beat too bad."
Despite the emergence of Allen, Petrino still expressed concerns about his offense's running game.
"I'm still concerned about it, but I think we'll run the ball well," Petrino said. "We have to have balance and be willing to do both. If they try to stack the box and put eight or nine guys down, we'll have to start throwing it more."
Petrino also needs more production from senior running back Kolby Smith , who gained just 19 yards on 9 carries against the Blue Raiders.
"We need to get him cranked up and going," Petrino said. "I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Kolby. He's worked extremely hard. He's certainly going to play and carry the ball and he'll make a lot of big plays down the stretch for us."
The Cardinals hope to re-establish their running attack this weekend against a Cincinnati defense that ranks 20th nationally against the run, allowing only 91 yards per game on the ground.