The Cardinals have dropped six straight league games dating back to last season, including a 35-10 loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago at PJCS. The Huskies, Louisville's opponent Saturday, lost at Pittsburgh last week on a late field goal after leading the Panthers by two touchdowns in the third quarter.
Louisville snapped a three-game losing streak last week against Southern Miss when Ryan Payne drilled a 32-yard field goal in the final 30 seconds to give the Cardinals a 25-23 win. The Cardinals had lost eight of their last nine games before knocking off the Golden Eagles.
"I think they're excited to get a win under their belt," said Louisville's Steve Kragthorpe. "It's always good medicine to get a win. It was important for us to win a game like that because we've lost some games like that and it's gives our guys a little confidence."
Against Southern Miss, Louisville overcame a nine point halftime deficit for the victory. The Cardinals tied a season-low with five penalties, registered two sacks and made just one turnover.
Now, the Cardinals return to Big East play on the road. That's not been a good place for Louisville the last three seasons. The Cardinals are only 3-9 away from PJCS under Steve Kragthorpe, including a 21-17 loss two years ago to the Huskies in Storrs.
"We're a little banged up," Kragthorpe said. "Heck, I was banged up last week after you guys got a hold of me. But I'm feeling better now."
It's been a tough season for Kragthorpe. His job security at UofL has been the subject of intense rumor and speculation the past two weeks. Kragthorpe is only 13-16 since taking over for Bobby Petrino, who won more games than any other UofL coach during a four-year period. This week, NFL.com's Michael Lombardi claimed sources from Louisville informed him that Jon Gruden would be the Cardinals No. 1 target, if/when Kragthorpe is fired.
"I'm not in control of my situation and nobody on earth is in control of my situation," Kragthorpe said. "I'll do what He tells me to do. I'll be where He tells me to be. Nobody on this earth controls my life."
The Cardinals appear to be getting a little big healthier as they hit road. Louisville could see the return of starting linebacker Brandon Heath and safety Daniel Covington this week. Heath missed the past two games, but made 15 tackles in the Cards first three games this season. Covington didn't play last week but made five tackles against Pittsburgh.
"We should get some guys back," said Kragthorpe. "It looks like Brandon Heath and [Daniel] Covington will be back."
With Adam Froman at quarterback instead of Justin Burke, the Cardinals offense racked up 439 yards total offense against Southern Miss, including nearly 260 yards through the air. Still, Louisville wasn't a juggernaut offensively. Though the Cards were 3 of 3 in red zone opportunities, they converted only 3 of 10 third downs.
They'll face a stern test against a tough Connecticut defense Saturday afternoon. Though Connecticut will play without top linebacker Scott Lutrus, the Huskies rank as one of the nation's top defensive units. The Huskies are 19th nationally in rushing defense, 20th in the nation in total defense, 24th nationally in scoring defense and eighth in sacks.
"They've got a great group of linebackers," Kragthorpe said. "They say that Scott might not play but we're anticipating him playing. Their secondary is very sound. They don't give up a lot of big plays. They run to the ball and tackle well."
"The big thing for us is we've got to be very good at the point of attack," added Kragthorpe. "They don't stay blocked long. They're good at escaping blockers. So we have to sustain our blocks and let the backs get started."
Offensively, the Huskies have one of the strongest ground attacks in the conference with running backs Andre Dixon and Jordan Todman. Dixon is 29th nationally in rushing at 92 yards per game, while Todman ranks 36th in the nation at 87 yards per contest. The Huskies, who average 174 yards rushing per game, are the only team to boast two rushers in the national top 36. Louisville is last in the conference in rushing defense.
"I think the biggest thing with Connecticut right now is they're a very efficient football team," Kragthorpe said. "They're not turning the ball over. Cody [Endres] is taking good care of the ball with Zach [Frazer] out. He's stepped up and done a great job for them at quarterback."
Dixon rushed for 95 yards against Pittsburgh last week, while Todman added 43 yards.
"They're talented at running back and big, strong and physical on the offensive line," said Kragthorpe. "They're very sound, very solid and don't make a lot of mistakes. They don't beat themselves."
Kragthorpe is 0-2 against Connecticut. The Cardinals lost in the final minutes last season when the Huskies returned a Hunter Cantwell interception after leading the entire way. Two years, Connecticut won a controversial game when Larry Taylor returned a punt for a touchdown after waving for a fair catch.
"UConn is a very good team," Kragthorpe said. "It's a tough place to play. They've got a great atmosphere there."
Date October 16, 2009
Location Renchsler Field
Radio 84-WHAS AM
Series UofL leads 3-2; Connecticut won last meeting 26-21