Cards don't know which QB they'll face

Louisville (2-4, 0-2) will attempt to end their seven-game Big East losing streak Saturday on the road against fifth-ranked Cincinnati (6-0, 2-0).

Steve Kragthorpe was coy two weeks ago about his quarterback situation prior to the Southern Mississippi game.

Now, the Louisville coach is wondering who will start at quarterback for fifth-ranked Cincinnati Saturday afternoon at Nippert Stadium.

Tony Pike, UC's starting quarterback, underwent a surgical procedure on his left arm (non-throwing) earlier this week after sustaining an injury in the Bearcats 34-17 win over South Florida last Thursday. Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said Thursday Pike will be a game-time decision. Pike threw in practice on Thursday.

"It's a great opportunity," Kragthorpe said. "They've got a great team. It'll be interesting to see what quarterback we'll face. I don't know which one we'll face. We'll prepare for all three quarterbacks."

Adam Froman might battle injured Tony Pike.
If Pike can't play, the Bearcats will play either Zach Collaros or Chazz Anderson. Collaros ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 72 yards against South Florida after coming in for Pike. He and Anderson split repetitions during practice this week in the event Pike can't play against Louisville.

"You don't see a lot of changes with either of three quarterbacks in the game," Kragthorpe said. "The only change you do see is there is more designed quarterback runs when Tony is not in the game. He's not a designed quarterback run type like Chazz or Zach."

If Pike does play, a battered UofL secondary will have their work cut out. With Pike under center, Cincinnati has averaged 457 yards and 40 points a game this year. Pike is completing 64 percent of his passes this season for 1,633 yards and 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

"He's a great rythem passer and understands what they're trying to do offensively and what defenses are trying to do," Kragthorpe said. "He can move outside the pocket the pocket and make plays. He can make all the throws."

Collaros gives Cinncinnati a little different look. He's more apt to take off running and had a 75 yard touchdown run against USF. Just like Pike, Collaros can produce big plays in UC's, spread, no-huddle offense.

"I thought Zach played great [against South Florida]," Kragthorpe said. "He came in and ran the quarterback draw for 75 yards. He's a good athlete and throws the ball well."

Regardless who plays quarterback for the Bearcats they'll be looking to get the ball into Mardy Gilyard's hands often. Gilyard leads UC in receptions, is second in the Big East in receiving yards per game and leads the league in scoring.

"Mardy's a good player," Kragthorpe said. "If you look at it from an NFL standpoint he can make all the plays that you want. He's a versatile player and they do a good job getting him the ball in a number of ways."

Kelly's offense has plenty of weapons and reminds Kragthorpe of his first offense at UofL.

"From a personnel standpoint they remind me of where we were in 2007 with Harry [Douglas] and Mario [Urrutia] when they were healthy, two really good tight ends with Scott [Kuhn] and Gary [Barnidge], a good group of backs and a strong offensive line and a great quarterback with Brian Brohm," Kragthorpe said.

Louisville's defense will have their work cut out against the explosive, high-scoring Bearcats. The Cardinals have started six different combinations in the defensive backfield this season and rank No. 105 in the nation in pass efficiency defense. UC ranks 10th nationally in passing offense at 310 yards per game.

"We're just trying to find able bodies that can get out there," Kragthorpe said. "We've got to do a better job tackling and minimizing big plays. We can't give up the big shot plays like we have the past two weeks."

While the Louisville offense moved the ball effectively against UConn in last week's blowout loss against the Huskies, the Cardinals were undone by four untimely turnovers. Louisville will be tested against a Bearcat defense that ranks 13th in the nation in total defense and is second in sacks.

"They're a 3-4 team now," Kragthorpe said. "They play a lot of zone coverage but they're very aggressive with their blitz package."

Adam Froman will be making his fourth start for the Cardinals this season. He's 1-2 as the starter, but had his best game statistically in the loss to UConn, completing 24 of 31 passes for 295 yards and one touchdown. He also threw a pair of interceptions against the Huskies.

"I think he's improving all the time," Kragthorpe said. "He had a couple of mistakes forcing the ball a bit. But he gives you the ability to make plays with his feet on third down. He brings a lot of versatility to our offense."

Two years ago, UofL upset then 15th-ranked UC 28-24 on the road. If the Cardinals hope to spring another upset, they'll have to play a near-flawless game.

"We have to take care of the football," Kragthorpe said. "In the games we've played well we've taken care of the football and our turnover ratio has been good. We have to take care of the ball, put pressure on their passer and tackle well. We need to establish the run and run the football well, which sets up the play-action. We have to play keep away and keep their offense off the field. And when we get in the red zone we have to score more touchdowns."

None of that will be easy for a team that has lost seven consecutive Big East contests.

"We'll have to play well to go there and beat them but we'll go up there and give it our best shot," Kragthorpe said.

Date October 24, 2009
Kickoff 3:30
Location Nippert Stadium
Television ESPNU
Radio 84-WHAS AM
Series UC leads 27-20-1; Cincinnati won last meeting 28-20

Cardinal Authority Top Stories