Except for the season-opening loss to Kentucky, Louisville has been outstanding moving the football on offense. While it wasn't a problem in wins over Tennessee Tech and Kansas State, the Cardinals found ways not to score in losses to Kentucky and UConn – a game UofL should have won in their last outing.
100-yard rushing games.
So what's the problem with Louisville's red-zone attack? There have been three main culprits: Drive-killing penalties, inopportune turnovers and a kicking game that has struggled without Art Carmody's reliable leg.
Louisville has been close to closing out drives – and in the process opponents – but continued miscues and penalties have haunted Steve Kragthorpe's team. Against UConn, Louisville moved the ball with ease, racking up 508 yards total offense (It was the first time the Cardinals recorded that much offense and lost since gaining 628 in a defeat to Syracuse in 2007). But the Cardinals squandered several scoring opportunities due to untimely penalties, turnovers and the lack of a reliable place-kicker.
If Louisville hopes to be successful against Memphis on the road – a team that has won three straight games and is gunning for an upset over an old rival who moved to greener (BCS) pastures four years ago – they'll need to clean up their act and eliminate the costly penalties and turnovers. Finding a reliable place-kicker (Ryan Payne will get his chance against UM) would also go a long way toward solving Louisville's problems in the scoring department.
Memphis won its third straight game in dramatic fashion when Vinny Zaccario booted a 25-yard field goal with two second left to defeat UAB, 33-30, at Legion Field last Thursday. Hall completed 18-of-28 passes for 209 yards and four touchdowns to guide the Tigers past UAB. Hall has thrown for 1,456 yards and eight touchdowns in six games since coming to Memphis. Running Back Curtis Steele, who rushed for over 200 yards in their last contest, rushed for 101 yards in the win over UAB and has totaled 578 yards this season. Memphis is one of the the most explosive offenses in the country, averaging 462.7 yards of total offense and is averaging 28.0 points per game. Defensively, the Tigers are led by Winston Bowens, Alton Starr and Brandon Patterson. Both Starr and Patterson have an interception this season.
Turnovers appear the tell-tale sign for the Cardinals chances of winning this season. When Louisville wins the turnover battle they win the game. When they don't, the Cardinals lose. In wins over Tennessee Tech and Kansas State, the Cardinals have forced seven turnovers, which have led to 35 points, and were +5 in turnovers. In losses to Kentucky and Connecticut, Louisville was -6 in the turnover department. Three of those six turnovers were returned for touchdowns. Memphis ranks 56th nationally in turnover margin.
CARDS AREN'T FINISHING STRONG
If the Cardinals are going to get back on track, they must figure out their problems in the fourth quarter. Through four games, the Cardinals have been out-scored, 48-12, in the final quarter. The Cardinals were out-scored 9-0 in the 26-21 loss to Connecticut and were out-scored 17-0 in the season opener versus Kentucky. In contrast, the Cardinals are out-scoring the opposition, 100-44, during the first three quarters of play.
Louisville came out of the UConn game with lots of bumps and bruises. Hunter Cantwell suffered an ankle sprain but is expected to go as the starter against Memphis. He received lots of treatment on the ankle during the Cardinals bye-week.
"Hunter is great," said Kragthorpe. "He'll be fine and ready to go."
Wide receiver Scott Long is expected to return against UM after missing the first four games recovering from a broken bone in his foot. As Cantwell's favorite target, Long could prove extremely useful in red-zone situations.
"It certainly helps from a depth standpoint because he was the most experienced wide receiver going into the season," Kragthorpe said. "Scott was a very productive guy for us in spring practice and in training camp until he got hurt. It certainly helps us to have a guy the caliber of Scott back in the lineup, particularly this week against a team that will do a lot of man to man coverage. That's one of the things Scott is good at – beating man to man coverage.
"We'll see how he progresses. I've got to see what his level of conditioning is even though he's been out there and been working. He's not been in football condition yet. We'll have to determine in practice what kind of football shape he's in and how many snaps he'll be able to play. I'm going to give him a lot of work to see where his conditioning is at and how many plays I think he can play."
Safety Richard Raglin will miss the Memphis game with an arm injury that could be a season-ending injury. That determination won't be made for a while and it's possible Raglin could use a redshirt if he is unable to return this season.
"Richard won't be back yet," said Kragthorpe. "We're waiting to determine when and if he'll be back. We have two scenarios we could go with. We could let him play the rest of the season but we don't know when we could get him back. (And) we do have the opportunity to redshirt him."
Louisville lost four offensive linemen in ten snaps against Tennessee Tech but those big guys are finally getting back to full strength. The Cardinals entire first team starting unit is expected to start the game against Memphis, including George Bussey and Mark Wetterer. Bussey and Wetterer missed the UConn game with injuries but returned to the lineup against UConn.
Louisville is averaging 435.2 yards of total offense in the first four games after recording 509 yards of total offense in the loss to Connecticut. UofL ranks 18th in the nation in rushing offense and 25th in total offense.
Freshman Victor Anderson produced his third straight 100-yard rushing effort, gaining an efficient, 100 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns last week. Anderson ranks 20th in the nation in rushing at 105.2 yards per game.
Hunter Cantwell is averaging 219.0 yards per game through the air and is completing 57.8 percent of his throws. The problem? The senior has thrown just as many interceptions (5) as touchdowns.
Doug Beaumont leads the Cardinals with 29 receptions for 385 yards, but has yet to score a TD. A total of 12 different players have caught passes for the Cardinals this season. Doug Beaumont and Josh Chichester have combined to catch 46 passes.
The Cardinals, who entered the game as the nation's second-ranked run defense, gave up a season-high 157 on the ground, including 190 to the nation's leading rusher in Donald Brown.
The Cardinals have forced eight turnovers in the last three games, which have led to 35 points.
The Louisville defense has allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season through four games and opponents are averaging just 2.6 yards a carry. Louisville has given up just 283 yards on the ground, which is fifth-lowest in the nation.
Louisville has held two of its four opponents to less than 40 yards of rushing. Kentucky recorded 63 yards in the opener, but the Cardinals have held the last three opponents to an average of 73.3 yards per game.