"One of the things that helped us in that game two years ago was we ran the ball pretty effectively, which set up some play-action passes for Hunter," Kragthorpe said. "We want to come in and run the ball well and that does two things – sets up the play-action game and helps you manage down and distance situations."
Establishing the run against the Kansas State defense might be easier said than done. The Wildcats have been stingy on defense so far this season, allowing just 8 points per game and 198 yards total offense in their first two games.
shootout against Kansas State
quarterback Josh Freeman.
In the season opener against Kentucky, Louisville couldn't generate any offense in a 27-2 loss to the Wildcats. The Cardinals rushed for just 53 yards in that game, while running back Bilal Powell lost a fumble that Kentucky ran back for a touchdown.
The Cardinals did look better last week on offense in a 51-10 win over Tennessee Tech. The Cardinals tallied 451 yards of offense against TN. Tech, rushing for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Victor Anderson led the Louisville ground attack with 114 yards and one touchdown.
"Defensively, they're a big blitz team," said Kragthorpe. "They do a good job minimizing big plays, putting pressure on the quarterback and knocking down the run behind the line of scrimmage. They do a good job creating lost yardage with their defense."
What the Cardinals must get is a solid effort from an offensive line that was banged up against Tennessee Tech. Four of UofL's five starters were injured and taken out of that contest at some point, including All-Big East performers Eric Wood and George Bussey. Those two, along with guards Abdul Kuyateh and Mark Wetterer, are listed as probable starters for tonight's game.
On the other side of the football, an improved Louisville defense certainly faces their biggest challenge of the season.
While the Kansas State defense has been solid, the Wildcats offense, led by junior quarterback Josh Freeman, has been explosive. The Wildcats rank second nationally in scoring offense at 57 points per game and are averaging 476 total yards, including 305 through the air.
Freeman has thrown for 520 yards and five touchdowns, connecting on 34 of 45 passes. His favorite target, wide receiver Brandon Banks, has nine receptions for 183 yards and three touchdowns. Aubrey Quarles has caught eight passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. Keithen Valentine leads Kansas State on the ground with 104 yards and one score.
"Kansas State is playing extremely well right now, led by their quarterback Josh Freeman," said Kragthorpe. "(He's) having an outstanding year – big, strong, physical passer. We're going to have to put a little pressure on him and not let him get settled in the football game."
Pressuring the opposing quarterback hasn't been Louisville's strongest suit. As well as the Cardinals have played defensively this season, they have recorded just two sacks in two games. William Savoy had a sack that resulted in a safety against Kentucky and Earl Heyman had a sack against Tennessee Tech.
What Louisville, under the direction of defensive coordinator Ron English, has done in the season's first two contests against Kentucky and Tennessee Tech's suspect offenses is stop the run. Louisville allowed just 63 on the ground against Kentucky and were even better against Tennessee Tech, limiting the I-AA program to just 33 rushing yards.
But you can throw those stats out the window because the Cardinals will face their biggest challenge against Freeman's Wildcats tonight.
"Josh is playing well, they've got an excellent group of wide receivers and they run the ball well," Kragthorpe said. "Josh is doing a good job getting the ball out quickly. He's also doing a good job changing protections at the line. And their offensive line is playing doggone good right now."
INJURY UPDATE: Junior wide receiver Scott Long will not play against Kansas State. Kragthorpe said Long is doing well and return to practice next week. He could be available for the Big East opener against UConn on Sept. 26.