Cards face third straight non-winning season

Midway through the 2009 season, Louisville is 2-4 and facing a third-straight non-winning season under Steve Kragthorpe. With a tough road game this weekend against fifth-ranked Cincinnati, InsideTheVille.com breaks down the Cardinals at the season's halfway point.

Offense: Steve Kragthorpe assumed play-calling duties from Jeff Brohm after last season. The result? Through six games, statistically-speaking, Louisville's offense is worse than it was the past two seasons. Key offensive bench marks like scoring, rushing yards per game and total offense are all lower this season with Kragthorpe calling plays than they were with Charlie Stubbs or Jeff Brohm calling the shots. The Cardinals have struggled with penalties, converting on third down, red zone offense and turnovers this season.


"I need to be a better play-caller," Kragthorpe said Monday on the Big East coaches call. "Everybody has to critically look at themselves when you're not playing the way that you want to. We did have some nice drives [against UConn] but we can't turn the football over. Overall, I've tried to do a good job of putting the ball in the hands of guys who can make plays."
GRADE: C-. The offense avoids a lower grade because they've moved the ball at times this season, and have shown signs of improvement with their red zone offense the past two games. But recurring penalties and turnovers, combined with struggles on third down and in the red zone keep the grade from being higher.

Defense: Brent Guy, Louisville's third defensive coordinator under Steve Kragthorpe, wasn't left with much to work with this season. It's shown on the field. The Cardinals have allowed more than 30 points in each of their four losses this season, including 35 against Pittsburgh and 38 vs. Connecticut. Louisville ranks last or second to last in the Big East in five defensive categories, including scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks, and tackles for loss. While the UofL linebackers have played well this season, the Cardinals front four isn't generating any pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the secondary has given up several big pass plays. Louisville ranks 91st nationally on third down and has given up more than 400 yards total offense the past four games.
GRADE: D. This defense doesn't get a passing grade in any of the key measurables. Not counting Indiana State, the Cards defense has only held one opponent under 30 points and that was Southern Miss playing with a backup quarterback and several key performers coming off injury.

Special Teams: Except for a key turnover here or there, Trent Guy has been outstanding returning kicks this season. Guy ranks second in the Big East in kick-off returns and his 64 yard return against Southern Miss set up the game-winning field goal. Punter Corey Goettsche has also been solid this season, leading the Big East with a 43 yard average. Kicking has still been a problem but has been improved. Ryan Payne is 8 of 11 on field goals this season, but missed extra points against Connecticut. The Cardinals have also given up a few big plays, including a 100 yard touchdown against Kentucky.
GRADE: C. It's a mixed bag for the special teams. There have been some bright spots, and some low moments. For that we'll put the grade somewhere in between excellent and failing.

Key Numbers

2-4: Louisville's record at the midpoint of Steve Kragthorpe's third season. In their four losses, the Cardinals have surrendered more than 30 points in each defeat – 31 vs. Kentucky, 30 vs. Utah, 35 vs. Pitt and 38 vs. UConn. Dating back to last season, Louisville has lost nine of their last ten games against Division 1 opposition. That's a key stat working against Kragthorpe's job security at UofL.

Seven: No, not the eerie Brad Pitt movie from the 90's. That's the number of consecutive losses Kragthorpe's program has sustained against Big East opponents. Dating back to last season, Louisville has lost seven straight games against Big East foes, including 35-10 and 38-25 losses to Pitt and UConn this season. Since the start of the 2008 season, Louisville is a paltry 1-8 in the Big East.

Unlucky 13: That's the number of turnover's for the Louisville offense through six games. The Cardinals ranked No. 110 in the nation last year in turnovers, and Steve Kragthorpe hasn't found a solution to the problem this season. The Cardinals committed four turnovers in the loss to UConn last weekend. All told, Louisville's 13 turnovers have resulted in 58 points for the opposition. Just like last season, UofL's quarterbacks haven't taken care of the football. Adam Froman has committed four turnovers in three games (three interceptions, one fumble) and Justin Burke threw four interceptions in three games. Louisville is 1-13 under Kragthorpe when they lose the turnover battle. "We've got to understand that defenses now are taught when you're going down to strip the ball," said Kragthorpe. "Sometimes the ball is more important than an extra yard. We preach it every day in practice. We just have to keep preaching it."

Two more for three straight: If Louisville loses just two of their last six games they would secure the programs third straight non-winning season, something that didn't happened under the three previous coaching staffs. The Cardinals went 6-6 in 2007 and 5-7 last season. If the Cardinals don't post a winning record this season, it will be the first time since Howard Schnellenberger's first three seasons (1985-87) that UofL has suffered through three consecutive non-winning seasons. Before Steve Kragthorpe's arrival, Louisville posted nine consecutive winning seasons.

Zero: The number of Big East teams Steve Kragthorpe has a winning record against in two plus seasons at Louisville. Kragthorpe is now 0-3 vs. UConn , 0-2 vs. Syracuse and 0-2 vs. West Virginia. Kragthorpe is 4-12 overall in Big East play. Before his arrival, Louisville was 11-3 in the Big East, winning the conference title in 2006.

68 That's the completion percentage for opposing quarterbacks this season. Louisville hasn't been able to generated pressure, ranking last in the Big East in sacks. That's allowed opposing quarterbacks to sit back in the pocket and pick apart Louisville's defensive backs. USM's Matreveous Young was 22 of 31, Pitt's Bill Stull was 16 of 23, Utah's Terrence Cain was 17 of 22, and Kentucky's Mike Hartline was 20 of 27.

13,000 The number of additional seats UofL will have to sell next season after expansion at PJCS is complete.


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