Cards look to fix offensive line problems

Louisville's offensive line struggled in their last outing against Utah - a 30-14 loss - and face another difficult test Friday in their Big East opener against Pittsburgh, a team that leads the conference in sacks.

Louisville struggled offensively last week at Utah and many of the Cardinals problems can be traced back to the offensive line.

Against the Utes, Louisville's offensive line failed to open holes in the running game and didn't give junior quarterback Justin Burke enough time to survey the field and find his receiving targets. It's something Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe hopes to fix in practice this week before Pittsburgh comes to town Friday night for the Big East season opener.

"We've got to continue to finish blocks in the running game and we've got to be a little firmer in our pass protection," Kragthorpe said.

Louisville offensive line faces another challenge against Pittsburgh's front four.
Louisville couldn't get anything going on the ground against the Utes, though Kragthorpe admitted this week that he prematurely abandoned the running game after the Cardinals fell behind early in the game. Still, the Cardinals averaged just 2.3 yards per carry against Utah, rushing for only 21 yards after halftime. Justin Burke was also sacked four times as the Louisville offense mustered only 261 yards total offense.

"To judge an offensive line you looking at the rushing, sacks and how you control the tempo of the game," said starting offensive tackle Greg Tomcyzk. "Everything starts up front and we have to establish the tempo from start to finish."

Tomcyzk said the Cardinals struggled to pick up Utah's multiple blitzes, something they may see this Friday from Pittsburgh. The Panthers rank fourth nationally in sacks per game (4), recording 16 sacks through four games this season.

"Utah brought a lot of blitzes," Tomcyzk said. "We've got to firm up our protections but we're pretty confident in our ability to pass block. We're pretty confident in our ability to protect Burke. It's going to be a challenge [against Pittsburgh]. They have a good front four."

Louisville is struggling to replace departed linemen Eric Wood and George Bussey this season. With Wood playing in the NFL, the Cardinals now have redshirt freshman Mario Benavides starting at center. Louisville also has a first-time starter at tackle in Byron Stingily, who beat out returning starter Jeff Adams during camp.

"I think we've gotten better each game," said Tomcyzk. "Our communication up front is very good. Mario has done a great job at center making the right front calls and targeting the right people. You can't replace Eric, but I think we've done a good job maintaining the physicality of the offensive line and running the ball. Every game we're getting better as a unit.

"We have brand new starters in Mario and Byron Stingily. They're improving tremendously in every practice and every game. I think we can put up big rushing numbers and minimize sacks as the year goes on and we get more comfortable with each other."

Offensive Line Notebook
- Mark Wetterer made his eighth start at right guard against Utah and played all 69 snaps.

- Jeff Adams started all 12 games in 2008 but hasn't played this year.

- Abdul Kuyateh has started the past 15 games - the longest streak on the team.

- Greg Tomczyk made his ninth career start against Utah and graded out 83 percent.

- Louisville has allowed six sacks in the past two games - two vs. Kentucky; four against Utah.

Cardinal Authority Top Stories