Cards ready to run with No. 14 USF Bulls

South Florida dominated Louisville last season. Now, the Cardinals hope to get a measure of revenge against the No. 14 Bulls Saturday at PJCS to keep themselves in a wide-open Big East conference race.

In last season's contest in Tampa, Louisville never had a chance. The Cardinals Trent Guy fumbled the game's opening kick-off which USF promptly return for a touchdown. The Bulls, who forced seven Louisville turnovers in a 55-17 win, never gave the Cards a chance.

Now, Louisville hopes to turn the tables on the Bulls at PJCS and keep itself in contention in a wide-open Big East conference race.

"They're a very good football team," said Steve Kragthorpe. "They're 14th in the country in both polls and they're Top 10 in the country in defense."

It all starts with defense for the Bulls, who rank sixth in the nation against the run and seventh in total defense. USF is led by All-American defensive end George Selvie, perhaps the most effective pass rusher in the league.

"They're front seven is very fast and very physical," said Kragthorpe. "They (also) do a good job on the back end and they have not given up big plays in the secondary. They're forcing people to drive the length of the field to score and not many people have been able to do that. So it's going to be a tough challenge (offensively)."

Louisville's offense hasn't been as effective – or balanced – the past few weeks since Hunter Cantwell injured an ankle in a loss at home against UConn. Cantwell's passing yards were down against Memphis and Middle Tennessee and he made some critical mistakes in both games.

Hunter Cantwell has to eliminate mistakes
against South Florida.

"We haven't thrown it quite as much the past couple weeks," Kragthorpe said. "Hunter is getting back to full strength and that will certainly help us. Getting Scott (Long) back helps our receiving corps a little bit. We've been a little bit banged up there too. Trent has been a little bit banged up so it's good to get him back and hopefully we can get (Troy) Pascley back this week too."

South Florida's offense can be explosive too. The Bulls average 35.4 points per game and 436 yards total offense – 194 rushing, 241 passing. Quarterback Matt Grothe leads the USF in rushing with 316 yards and has also thrown for 1,552 yards and 12 touchdowns.

"Matt is playing really well right now," Kragthorpe said. "He's a dual threat quarterback. He makes plays with his feet and he throws the ball well. They've got another great group of wide receivers again this year. They make plays and it's going to be a great test for us."

Kragthorpe believes the USF offense will be the most diverse attack his team will have faced to this point of the season.

"They're probably the most multiple offense we've seen so far with what they do with their screen game, running the quarterback and throwing the ball down the field," Kragthorpe said. "Matt is very good throwing the ball downfield. They're going to try to make some big shot plays off of play-action passes. They're good at what they do and the run the ball well."

While Grothe lead the Bulls in rushing, USF will use four or five different running backs against the UofL defense. Mike Ford, who rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns last season against the Cardinals, has rushed for 276 yards and five touchdowns this season.

"They do a good job pounding the ball between the tackles and they all have the speed to get outside," Kragthorpe said. "They kind of hold you hostage with Matt because you know he's a true threat to run the football and then they can hand it off or throw the screen pass to the running backs. They do a good job getting the ball to a variety of guys in a variety of different ways."

Louisville has been good on defense this season. The Cardinals have been strong against the run, allowing only 86.3 yards per game on the ground. Louisville is allowing less than 300 yards per game this season. So how will the Cardinals slow down the Bulls offensive attack?

"We're going to try to put 12 guys out there and hope the refs don't see it," said Kragthorpe. "It's a challenge because they do a good job spreading the field to create seams in the passing and running game. When you have a guy like Matt you have to account for him, too."

Louisville might take a lesson from Pittsburgh, who beat USF 26-21 in Tampa earlier this season.

"They put a little pressure on Matt and did a nice job making him run side to side and they did a good job of disguising with multiple looks," Kragthorpe said. "I thought they did a nice job of mixing things up and not letting South Florida get a beat on them."

While Louisville trails the overall series against South Florida 3-2, the Cardinals are 2-0 vs. the Bulls at PJCS.

"We're looking forward to the challenge," Kragthorpe said. "We're going to do whatever it takes to win the football game. I think our crowd could be a huge factor for us this weekend."


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