Cards looking for offensive answers

Just once this season, against Tennessee Tech, has Louisville scored points in the first quarter. The Cardinals were blanked in the first 15 minutes against Kentucky (0-0), Kansas State (7-0), UConn (3-0) and Memphis (7-0). That's a nasty trend Steve Kragthorpe hopes to find an answer for against Middle Tennessee.

With just one more non-league game left to play against the Blue Raiders this Saturday before jumping headfirst into the Big East league race, Louisville is looking to jump start an inconsistent offense that has been slow starting games this season.

"Middle Tennessee has an interesting team on defense," Kragthorpe said. "They bring blitzes from all over. They've got them coming from everywhere. They've done a nice job on the defensive side this year and had a convincing win against Maryland. It'll be a big contest here."

One possible solution for Louisville's offensive problems: Tweaking the offensive play-calling on first and second down to put the Cardinals in shorter third down situations. Against Memphis, the Louisville offense didn't fare well on third down and converted less than 25 percent of the time in those situations. The Cardinals troubles on third down were certainly a big reason why the offense scored just two touchdowns in the game – none in the second half.

"From a general standpoint offensively, we didn't do a good enough job on first or second down which put us in a lot of long third down situations and consequently we didn't convert as many as we needed to – we were only 3 of 13 on third down," Kragthorpe said. "So we've got to convert third downs to stay on the field and keep drives alive and our first and second down production has to be better so that we can manage those third down situations a little bit better."

Despite an uneven performance on both offense and defense – UofL gave up 481 total yards against the Tigers - it was the play of the Louisville special teams that deserves credit for the Cardinals 35-28 win over Memphis. The Cardinals got a kick-off return for touchdown from Trent Guy to tie the score at 14 and ended the first half by returning a blocked Memphis field goal attempt for another touchdown.

"Special teams really stepped up and made some big plays," said Kragthorpe. "We scored 14 points in the kicking game with the kickoff return for a touchdown that got us back to 14-14 and took a little wind out of their sails and the 10 point swing at the end of the half when we were able to block the field goal and return for a touchdown. That was a huge play in the game."

While it might not have been a thing of beauty – or offensive efficiency – the win moved the Cardinals to 3-2 on the season. A win over Middle Tennessee this week would put the Cardinals just two wins shy of bowl eligibility with six games left on the schedule.

"We didn't play as well as we need to on offense or defense," Kragthorpe said. "We gave up some big plays on the defensive side of the ball and didn't make as many big plays as we would have liked on the offensive side. But we found a way to win and that's what it's all about."

Kragthorpe attributed his team's slow start against Memphis to perhaps being ‘over-hyped' coming into the game.

"We were probably a little too emotional this week," Kragthorpe said. "We've got to stay even-keeled and be ready to take the field. We were maybe a little too over-hyped at the start of the game."

Johnny Patrick earned Big East Player
of the Week honors for his
performance against Memphis.

Patrick Honored
Sophomore cornerback Johnny Patrick was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week after recording six tackles in the win over Memphis. Patrick also returned a fumble for touchdown in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game-winning points for the Cardinals and also blocked a field goal at the end of the first half that was returned for a touchdown by the UofL special teams.

"Johnny has improved dramatically as a player this year," Kragthorpe said. "He has really stepped up into a role that was vacated and he's been a consistent performer for us not only on defense but on special teams. He made some big plays (against Memphis), none more big than the fumble he picked up and ran in for a touchdown (for) the deciding points."

Patrick, who stepped in for dismissed former starter Rod Council, has a team-high 25 tackles this season. "He's been a more physical player this year and has done a good job tackling," Kragthorpe said.

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