Can Kragthorpe find solutions?

There was no talk of a national championship, a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) berth or even a Big East title after Louisville's 38-35 loss to Syracuse on Saturday afternoon. There were only questions. What's wrong with the Cards? What can they do to fix their problems? And, where do they go from here?

There was no talk of a national championship, a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) berth or even a Big East title after Louisville's 38-35 loss to Syracuse on Saturday afternoon.

There were only questions. What's wrong with the Cards? What can they do to fix their problems? And, where do they go from here?

What had already been a rough week in the aftermath of the loss to archrival Kentucky, which prompted some criticism of new coach Steve Kragthorpe, is sure to get even worse after Saturday's surprising loss to the Orange. But Kragthorpe, surely knowing that more critics would emerge in the coming days, stepped into the crosshairs of that condemnation when he stepped to the podium for his post-game press conference.

"I'm very upset, very disappointed that we're not playing better than what we are right now. We've got to find a way to get it done, but the buck stops with me," said Kragthorpe, in essence taking one for his team. "If you want someone to blame for this game, blame me, I'm the head coach."

But fans who have watched Louisville's first four games know that there is plenty of blame to go around.

The problems

Three of UofL's biggest problem areas so far this season: defending the deep pass, lack of tackling and drive-killing penalties - were back Saturday against Syracuse.


Brian Brohm plans to assert more leadership
this week.
The first of those was on display on the first play of the game when Taj Smith got free in the Louisville secondary, caught a pass from quarterback Andrew Robinson and went untouched 79 yards into the end zone to give the Orange a 7-0 lead.

It turned out to be a trend. Of Syracuse's five TDs Saturday, three came on pass plays of 42 yards or more.

"We've got to defend the deep ball better, we worked and worked and worked and worked on that all week long and the first play of the game they throw it over our head," Kragthorpe said.

The Orange also scored on a screen pass that went for 60 yards after the Cards couldn't corral Smith, revealing another Cards conundrum.

"We've got to tackle," Kragthorpe said. "We've got guys in position on the screen pass that went for a touchdown, (but) we've got to tackle them."

 But the Cards also hurt themselves on offense too with drive-stalling, or killing, penalties. Junior wide receiver Mario Urrutia was guilty of two such infractions. Urrutia was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct late in the third quarter, then for a personal foul, both of which pushed UofL back 15 yards in the fourth quarter.

After the first penalty Kragthorpe took Urrutia out of the game, but later he had to reinsert him into the lineup when UofL was running its two-minute offense due to a lack of healthy personnel.

"Those personal foul penalties are selfish penalties and those need to end," junior center Eric Wood said. "They're drive killers and they are drive extenders the other way around. We don't need to have them if we are going to have a successful season."

 The potential solutions

So how does UofL (2-2, 0-1) solve these problems?

"We've got to continue to fight," Kragthorpe said. "There's a lot of football left to be played in the season. We've got to continue to fight and find ways to get better. And the way you do that is you come back here at 6:30 Monday morning, is what I told them, you dissect what we did, we get the corrections made and we get on the practice field Monday afternoon and we get ready to go to North Carolina State."

 One of the problem areas which will likely get ample attention in practice this week is the Cards pass coverage, or lack thereof.

"I think some of that is inexperience, but that's my responsibility to get those guys experience in practice and put them in situations where we're defending those balls. We did that all week long, we just didn't do it in the game," Kragthorpe said. "That's my responsibility. You're either coaching it, or letting it happen, so I'm obviously not doing a good enough job of coaching it." But junior defensive tackle Earl Heyman wasn't ready for Kragthorpe and Co. to shoulder all of the blame for the Cards rickety defense.

"We hold ourselves accountable," he said. "Coaches don't miss tackles, coaches don't miss assignments, players miss tackles and players miss assignments. We've got young guys in the secondary and young guys at linebacker. When I make a mistake you don't see it because I'm on the defensive line, but when they make a mistake everyone sees it."

 Wood, Heyman and quarterback Brian Brohm each said that they planned to assert their leadership even more in practice this week. But Brohm didn't wait until then, he affirmed that Urrutia will rebound from the penalties that have plagued him recently.

"Mario will be okay," Brohm said confidently.

So do the Cards stay confident collectively?

"You keep your head up high and puff out your chest and you play," Heyman said. "You play with a chip on your shoulder, and as hard as you can every down." Added Brohm: "Things have been going real smooth the last few years, it's been easy to be positive because everybody's loving each other when you win. This will test your true character."


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