With the exception of a possession or two, Louisville was solid defensively in their season-opener against the Racers. The U of L defense held Murray State to just 271 yards total offense and recorded 10 tackles for loss. But there was one noticeable stat missing in that game for a defense that has ranked near the top nationally in sacks the past few years – Louisville didn't record any sacks.
That figures to change tonight as Middle Tennessee's offensive line comes into the game limping – literally. Starting guard David Price and top reserve Richard Bortner won't be available for the Blue Raiders tonight. Brandon Nix, the starting center, will move to guard this week because he broke his snapping hand in last week's 27-14 loss to Florida Atlantic. That means Rick Stockstill will have to rely on several youngsters against Louisville's active defensive front.
"We've basically got seven (offensive linemen) — five starters and two backups," Stockstill said this week. "We've only got two guys behind our starting five, and they've got to be backups at every position."
As for Louisville's inability to get to Murray State's quarterback last week, Cardinals coach Steve Kragthorpe credited the Racers offensive scheme to spread the field and utilize short, quick throws out of the shotgun for his team's lack of sacks.
"What's happening in college football now is people are spreading the field with four and five wide receiver sets and they're putting the quarterback back there 5 or 6 yards in the shotgun and he's just grabbing it and throwing it and getting it out quickly," Kragthorpe said. "I think it's become increasingly tough to get to the passer with all the spread formations."
penalties from his team this week.
Kragthorpe said he came away from Louisville's first game pleased, for the most, with his team's performance. He'd like to see a few less penalties this week, particularly of the personal foul and special team's variety. An illegal block negated JaJuan Spillman's 91 yard punt return for touchdown against the Racers.
"There's a lot of things coming out of the Murray game that I felt like we did extremely well and a few things that we need to get corrected," Kragthorpe said. "We had a few too many penalties, including one that cost us a 91 yard punt return for touchdown. We've got to be better in terms of making sure we do the right things on special team to continue to make big plays."
Senior quarterback Brian Brohm picked up right where he left off in his first outing of the new season, completing 16-of-21 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Brohm also had one rushing touchdown and completed passes to seven different receivers. Dating back to last season, Brohm has thrown for 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns in his past four starts.
"I thought Brian played extremely efficient in the game," Kragthorpe said. "He distributed the ball well, was in great command of what we were doing from an offensive scheme standpoint and we were able to make some big plays."
Defensively, Kragthorpe hopes to see his team focused on putting together four complete quarters, something he feels his defense didn't do last week against Murray.
"I thought our defense did a good job early in that game and went three and out on the first series," Kragthorpe said. "I thought they relaxed a little bit after that and gave up the touchdown drive, but I thought in the latter part of the second quarter and the first two or three (series) of the second half they really played extremely well, tackled much better, flew around and played the way we are capable of playing."
Middle Tennessee struggled against Florida Atlantic last week, allowing 411 yards total offense, including 216 yards rushing. That's probably not a good sign for the Blue Raiders against an opponent like Louisville, who had 655 yards offense against Murray State, including 261 yards on the ground.
"We know they're a very good team in terms of the talent that they have," said Kragthorpe, noting that Middle Tennessee played the Cardinals tough during the first half of U of L's 44-17 victory. "They gave us everything we wanted down in Nashville last year. They've got a new quarterback that is very athletic and can run around and make plays and they have a couple of receivers who can stretch the field vertically and make plays. And they're very quick on defense and fly around."
And while Louisville has watched and re-watched film of MTSU's game against Florida Atlantic last week, Kragthorpe expects Raiders coach Rick Stockstill will have something up his sleeve for the Cardinals this evening.
"They have a very creative coaching staff," Kragthorpe said. "Rick Stockstill has done a good job there and took them to a bowl last season. They've got some very good players on both sides of the ball and their special teams are very electric.
"Their personnel is very similar and they have the same coaching staff that they had last season. They did an excellent job against us last year and they played us dramatically different than they did early on and later in the season. Even though we've watched the Florida Atlantic game we expect that they'll play us differently than they did against Florida Atlantic."
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