The Cardinals had several chances to beat the Wildcats for the first time under Kragthorpe but couldn't close the deal despite leading twice in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, Louisville was undone by two fourth quarter turnovers, including a Trent Guy fumble of a Kentucky punt late in the game that the Wildcats turned into the game-winning touchdown three plays later.
Still, Kragthorpe was encouraged with his team's effort. He was especially pleased that his team continued to fight back against the favored the Wildcats in a hostile Commonwealth Stadium. Louisville trailed 17-7 at halftime, but controlled the third quarter before re-claiming the lead 20-17 early in the fourth quarter. After the Wildcats re-took a 24-20 lead, the Cardinals quickly responded with a 66 yard touchdown from Justin Burke to Trent Guy for a 27-24 advantage with 7:50 remaining.
Without question, Louisville improved in two areas from their season opener against Indiana State: Third down conversions and cutting down penalties. Against the Sycamores, the Cardinals stunk up PJCS on third down, converting only 1 of 9 chances. They were much better against Kentucky, however, converting 9 of 17 third downs, including 2 of 2 on their game opening touchdown drive. The Cardinals also cut down their penalties against the Wildcats, committing only six infractions for 35 yards, compared to 14 for 128 against Indiana State.
With better production on third down, and having cut down on drive-killing penalties, Kragthorpe now has to find a way to improve Louisville's offensive production in the red zone. Against Kentucky, Louisville had six red zone scoring opportunities but managed just two touchdowns and a field goal. For the season, the Cards have scored on 10 of 14 red zone opportunities, but have only five touchdowns.
"I thought we improved on third down conversions," Kragthorpe said. "Now we've got to improve our red zone productivity in terms of scoring touchdowns. When we get down in the red zone we've got to score touchdowns. Field goals aren't good enough. When we get down there we can't settle for field goals."
Kragthorpe can also be encouraged that his special teams and defense created three turnovers against the Wildcats. In the first half, Chaz Thompson recovered a fumble caused by defensive end Malcolm Tatum. In the third quarter, safety Terence Simien, who is out indefinitely with a lacerated kidney, forced a fumble on special teams that Daniel Brown recovered and cornerback Johnny Patrick intercepted Mike Hartline.
"I thought our guys did a good job of being physical in that game," Kragthorpe said. "I was proud of the way our guys played. It was a game I felt we had chances to win. I was encouraged by what I saw. We played with great passion and great energy. They never flinched in a hostile environment. We competed to the last snap of the game."
Kragthorpe hopes that his team can build on their performance against Kentucky this week against Utah, who has won 23 of the last 25 games.
"There's a lot of disappointment that I think will linger but our guys will be ready to go," Kragthorpe said. "I think they understand that even though we lost the game there was some good things that came out of it. I'm confident we'll respond the right way. Sometimes a tough loss creates a resolve within you and you dig down deep inside."