Last week, UofL AD Tom Jurich ruffled feathers locally among the Louisville faithful when he told ESPN.com that Louisville fans "are so new at this, they thought we'd be going to the Orange Bowl every week," implying that his fan bases expectations were out of whack with reality.
During his Monday afternoon press conference, however, Kragthorpe said he didn't have any problem with fan expectations for his program.
"I think our fans our very reasonable in terms of their expectations," a candid Kragtorpe said. "I think they should have (high) expectations because we do to. We want to be in a BCS bowl every year. We haven't done that and I'm disappointed that we have not done that. But I don't think our fans expectation level is unreal at all. I would be the same way if I were a fan of Louisville football."
While Kragthorpe has taken relentless heat from a disgruntled fan base this season, Louisville fans have continued to show support for their team. Despite dwindling bowl hopes for the second straight year under Kragthorpe and a two-game losing streak to Syracuse and Pittsburgh, more than 37,000 UofL fans braved cold and rain Friday night at PJCS to support their team against rival Cincinnati.
"I thought our crowd was great the other night, particularly when you look at the weather conditions," Kragthorpe said.
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Jurich also came under heavy criticism last week again for placing the blame for Louisville's current on-field problems on Bobby Petrino. Petrino went 41-9 in four seasons at UofL, winning two conference titles, finishing No. 6 in the national polls twice and winning the programs first-ever BCS bowl game before leaving to become head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Jurich told ESPN.com that Petrino left Kragthorpe "short-handed."
After his team's 28-20 loss to Cincinnati Friday night – Louisville's third straight loss, the first three game losing streak at UofL since 1997 – Kragthorpe accepted full responsibility for his team's current 5-5 record – 1-4 in Big East play – and 11-11 overall record since taking over for Petrino last season. Kragthorpe is just 4-8 in Big East games.
"I'll take all of the blame for what has happened over the course of the last year and a half," Kragthorpe said. "We're not winning football games right now and that's on me. I take full responsibility for that. We've got to win games and I'm paid to win games."
Despite mounting pressure and rampant fan discontent, Kragthorpe vows that he's not about to quit. "I know I'm here for a reason," Kragthorpe said. "I came here for a reason and I'm not giving up. I'm going to continue to fight and continue to battle."
"Any time there is criticism it's nice to know that people above you have your back," added Kragthorpe. "I'm confident that Tom and Dr. (James) Ramsey have that. Everybody is disappointed in the outcome of the football games but the people inside our program understand how hard the guys are working."
With two games remaining, Louisville currently is tied with South Florida and Syracuse for last place in the Big East standings. Louisville beat USF 24-20 last month and lost to Syracuse on the road three weeks ago.
Still needing one more win to become bowl eligible, Kragthorpe said Monday his team would probably have to win its last two games against league title contender West Virginia and surging Rutgers to earn a bowl invitation. The Cardinals likely won't be favored in either contest.
"I just continue to be positive and accentuate the positive things," Kragthorpe said. "Obviously there are some things we've got to get fixed and corrected. We'll continue to be positive and continue to fight."
If the Cardinals expect to beat the Mountaineers and Scarlet Knights, they'll have to eliminate turnovers and mistakes that have plagued them the entire season.
"We're going to have to play more error-free football than we have," Kragthorpe said. "We can't turn the ball over. We can't have costly penalties – we had 81 yards in plays the other night called back because of penalties. Those are momentum and drive killers. When you're playing good teams in the Big East like West Virginia your margin of error shrinks."
"We've shown some signs of being a better football team but we haven't done it on a consistent basis," Kragthorpe added. "We have to do that to beat a team like West Virginia this week."