The Cardinals corrected several critical mistakes that cost them in a, 38-35, upset home loss to Syracuse last week. Here are some of the more important areas of improvement: Turnovers (Louisville committed four against Syracuse, but just one against NC State; Penalties (Louisville committed 12 for 105 yards against Syracuse, but only six for 60 yards against NC State); Big pass plays (Louisville allowed touchdown passes of 79, 60 and 42 yards vs. Syracuse. NC State's lone touchdown pass went for just two yards).
Add it all up and it's a clear signal that Louisville took an important leap forward heading into this Friday's game against Utah (2-3, 0-2).
"I think it's fair to say that we've improved but to say that we've arrived I don't think is a fair assessment," Kragthorpe said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We want to continue to grow and progress. I think the key for us is (not) to repeat the same mistakes. And I thought we did a better job of that in the game against North Carolina State."
Perhaps most importantly, the Cardinals showed solid progress on defense Saturday in Raleigh. A week after being torched by the Syracuse offense, Louisville defended the deep ball better, put more pressure on the quarterback, tackled more crisply and forced several turnovers.
"We were more vertically sound," Kragthorpe said. "We did give up one deep ball and I though Rod (Council) was in great position but it was a great individual effort on their player's part. We did a better job rallying to the football and we tackled better. We didn't tackle as well as we need to but we did tackle better. Obviously the biggest thing that we were able to do was to (force) turnovers."
while making his first career start
Kragthorpe made some keen personnel adjustments up front and the changes seemed to energize the Cardinals defense. Without Peanut Whitehead, Louisville inserted redshirt freshman Rodney Gnat at end, moved Earl Heyman from tackle to end and moved Willie Williams into Heyman's spot at tackle.
"I thought we did a better job getting pressure on the quarterback," Kragthorpe said. "We pressured a little more in this game than maybe we did in the previous two but not abnormally more. We pressured a little differently. We pressured with some different guys."
Kragthorpe also made two key changes in Louisville's oft-maligned secondary, moving junior Bobby Buchanan from cornerback to free safety and giving redshirt freshman Johnny Patrick his first career start at cornerback in place of Woodny Turenne. Both moves worked well, especially considering Patrick's interception in the end zone that prevented a touchdown.
"Bobby's a good athlete and I think he has a pretty thorough understanding of what we're trying to do from a defensive standpoint," Kragthorpe said. "He's got good vision and good eyes. We need to keep working fundamentally and technique-wise with him."
"Johnny Patrick was playing real well at corner but he got clipped and had to come out of the game," Kragthorpe added. "I anticipate that he'll be full go this week. Johnny made a great play on the ball in the end zone."
Kragthorpe said he made the decision to change his defensive lineup to get his best players on the field at the same time.
"I think you have to go back to our bedrock philosophy that we're trying to put our best 11 players on the field," Kragthorpe said. "In this situation when we got to Raleigh, playing Earl at end, Bobby at free safety and starting Johnny at corner, those were three of the best 11 guys that we could find.
"We're trying to find guys that can step up into different roles that are vacated and that's going to be a continual process throughout the course of the season. We're always looking for guys to jump in there and make plays when their number is called and an opportunity arises."