Coming off a 24-17 win over Pittsburgh nearly two weeks ago, the Cardinals received a much needed bye last week. That allowed Steve Kragthorpe's team 12 days to prepare for the Mountaineers. The time off, according to the U of L coach, was much needed for his team.
"We got a few guys healed up that had a few nagging injuries over the course of the season," Kragthorpe said.
The Cards better be rested because they'll be chasing Pat White, Steve Slaton and the potent West Virginia offense around the field Thursday night. The Mountaineers are averaging 41 points and 471 yards of total offense, including 298 yards per game on the ground - a figure that ranks second nationally.
"I think this will be our toughest (job) to date in trying to tackle," Kragthorpe said.
The weather could also play a factor in the game. Forecasts call for temperatures to in the 30's at game time with a mixture of rain and snow possible.
Brian Brohm and the Cards offense.
While West Virginia's potent offense gets all the headlines, the Mountaineers have been quietly excellent on defense this season. West Virginia allows less than 15 points per game and is holding opponents to just 261 yards total offense this season. That's not a good sign for Louisville's offense, which has struggled the past couple games.
"The thing that's lost in the whole story is their defense and how well they are playing," Kragthorpe said. "They are in the Top 10 in the country in both points allowed and yards allowed. They are creating turnovers and flying around."
Normally not a stout defense, West Virginia tweaked some things in their secondary this season and the changes seem to have paid dividends.
"They are playing a little bit differently than they have in the past in terms of their secondary configurations," Kragthorpe said. "They're now playing with a little more two safety looks. They do a nice job getting guys to the ball and creating turnovers. And they're pass defense has improved tremendously. They do a good job keeping the ball in front of them and not allowing big plays."
Louisville's once potent offense has struggled in recent weeks. Though they average 510 yards per game on the season, the Cards have been held below 400 yards in their last two games. Kragthorpe will need a more consistent effort offensively if he hopes to keep pace with the high-octane Mountaineers.
"Offensively, we'd like to continue making big plays like we did early in the season," Kragthorpe said. "We haven't made as many big plays recently. For me, the last three games we'd like to play a complete game and play well on offense, defense and special teams and obviously win them."
Quarterback Brian Brohm says the Cardinals need to eliminate negative plays that thwart moment and kill potential scoring drives.
"I think the big thing that's going on right now is we need to eliminate penalties," Brohm said. "We're getting too many negative plays. We need to get into third and short and we've had a lot of third and long's the last few games. We've just had negative plays – penalties, sacks – just things that you can't have to sustain drives."
Kragthorpe agrees with Brohm's assessment.
"We need to have good first down production so that we can get ourselves into the second and 6's or less that allows you to open up the playbook," he said.