With two league losses, the Cardinals, along with Cincinnati and Syracuse, currently occupy last place in the conference. For much of the game last Friday against the Huskies, it looked as though Louisville would come out on top and remain in the thick of the Big East conference race.
But an incorrect fair catch call, combined with some fourth quarter defensive breakdowns that led to 14 UConn points, led to a disappointing 21-17 loss in which Louisville scored just 10 offensive points in the game.
"I don't think anybody can make our team, myself or our coaches or the people inside our building feel any worse about losing the game than we already do ourselves," Kragthorpe said. "It's a time to rally together, to be positive, to encourage and get corrections made."
to avoid falling below the .500 mark for the
first time since starting 0-2 in the 1998 season.
"We don't ever count ourselves out," junior safety Bobby Buchanan. "We're going to keep fighting through adversity and working harder. The Big East is still wide open for anybody to win. We can't afford another loss. We've just got to keep working harder."
"No person in that locker room is happy with how the season is going as far as wins and losses but we know that if we fold and lose the next games that we're not going to be able to do anything with the season," added senior tight end Scott Kuhn. "So we've got to come together as a team and try to win out these next four games. It starts first with Pittsburgh."
Pittsburgh has been inconsistent this season. The Panthers handed Cincinnati their second consecutive loss last week but had dropped their four previous contests before their win over the Bearcats, including blowout losses to UConn and Virginia.
"Pitt is a very good football team right now in terms of the way they played Cincinnati," Kragthorpe said. "I thought they ran the football very well with two backs over 100 yards. It looked like Pat (Bostick) felt a lot more comfortable with what they were doing offensively. Their defense shut out a team that had been playing relatively well on offense in the second half, holding them to zero points. And they are very sound in special teams. So we've got to be very solid and we've got a big challenge on our hands."
Louisville has struggled to stop the run this season. The Cards defense did a good job last week against UConn's rushing attack for three quarters but wore down late in that contest. Pittsburgh freshman running back LeSean McCoy ranks second in the Big East at 115 yards per game and is on pace to rush for well more than 1,000 yards this season. LaRod Stephens-Howling has also rushed for 242 yards. The Panthers ran for 260 yards against Cincinnati.
"We stopped the run (against UConn)," Kragthorpe said. "We were doing a good job stopping their number one running play which was the power and that's the number one running play we're going to see against Pittsburgh. They run the power extremely well."
Louisville's defense has played much better the past two games since allowing 44 points against Utah. Two weeks ago, the Cardinals forced four turnovers while holding Cincinnati to 24 points. Last week, the U of L defense didn't allow an offensive touchdown against UConn until the fourth quarter.
"I think we've been more fired up when we go out and we're getting more three and outs and giving the offense back the ball," Buchanan said.
UConn's Andre Dixon ran for 115 yards and one touchdown against Louisville last week. Louisville will face another tough challenge this week against Pittsburgh's potent duo of McCoy and Howling.
"I think they're similar in the fact that they're quick and very elusive," Kragthorpe said of the Panthers duo. "They're guys that in the open field they'll shake you down and will make it tough for you to tackle them. They are not tremendously big backs but they run strong behind their pads and they're pretty tough to handle in the open spaces."
"They have very good running back(s)," Buchanan added. "They look like they're going to be another tough team to handle."
Louisville's offense has struggled in recent weeks, scoring just one offensive touchdown against the Huskies. The Cardinals have struggled to move the ball on the ground and also committed three turnovers last week.
Pittsburgh's defense ranks sixth nationally against the pass and 20th in total defense, allowing only 314 yards per game.
"They played really well against Cincinnati who I think is a very good offensive football team," Kragthorpe said. "They played a little bit more pressure and blitz the quarterback a little bit more than they had in the past. So I would expect that they would employ that this week, too."
"Every team is good in the Big East and you have to come ready to play every week," Kuhn said. "They've got a good defense. They shut out Cincinnati in the second half and Cincinnati's offense is good too."
Louisville returns home for the first time in three weeks. The Cardinals lost their past two games at home and Buchanan said the team needs to get a new home winning streak going against Pittsburgh.
"We owe our fans a win at home," said Buchanan. "It's time to start the winning streak over again at home."
INJURY REPORT: Mario Urrutia -Probable; Anthony Allen -Probable; Rodney Gnat -Probable; Maurice Mitchell-Questionable.