In the midst of an 11-game stretch without a bye-week, Louisville enters today's game riding a two-game losing streak and could be without several key players, including running back Victor Anderson. Anderson injured his shoulder last week against Cincinnati. Without Anderson, the load in the backfield will fall on freshman Darius Ashley and junior Bilal Powell.
Ashley saw his most extensive action of the season against the Bearcats and responded with 13 carries for 67 yards, the best effort of his short career. He could receive even more of the workload against Arkansas State if Anderson can't play.
"I thought he did some nice things in the [Cincinnati] game," Kragthorpe said of Ashley. "I thought he had some nice runs. And some big conversion runs on third down. He was very patient setting up his blocks and was physical. [He] needs to continue to work on his pass protection to become a complete player."
The Cardinals also could have questions at quarterback. Backup Justin Burke injured his shoulder last week against Cincinnati. Starter Adam Froman left the game against the Bearcats following an elbow injury, prompting speculation this week that Will Stein or Zach Stoudt could start against ASU. Stein finished the game against Cincinnati, completing 6-9 passes for 98 yards.
"That's [injuries] part of football. We're not going to use them as excuses," said Kragthorpe.
If Louisville hopes to notch their third win of the season Saturday, the Cardinals will have to take better care of the football. The Cardinals are 96th nationally in turnover margin. Louisville committed two turnovers last week against Cincinnati and 15 miscues have cost the Cardinals 61 points this season.
"We've got to do a better job with our ball security," Kragthorpe said.
Applying some pressure on opposing quarterbacks would also help the Cards cause. The Louisville defense has registered just 11 sacks through seven games this season. The Cards lack of pressure has given opposing quarterbacks time to sit in the pocket and pick the Louisville defense apart. The Cardinals rank last in the Big East in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense.
"We've got to do a better job with our four-man pass rush and put more pressure on the passer," said Kragthorpe. "I think that's a key in this game because (Corey) Leonard can escape the pocket. So we have to contain him and get him on the ground early in the game."
The Red Wolves snapped a four-game losing streak last week with a 27-10 win over FIU. ASU is 2-4 on the season and has lost three games by six points or less, including a 24-21 setback against Iowa.
"They're playing pretty well right now," Kragthorpe said. "They beat Florida International the other night and a couple of close losses to Troy State and Iowa. They gave Iowa everything they wanted."
ASU averages 344 yards and is scoring 25 points per game. They're one of the best rushing teams in the Sun Belt, averaging 159 yards on the ground per game. Louisville might be able to pressure the quarterback today, as the Red Wolves allow 2.5 sacks per game, 88th nationally.
"They can put up a lot of points," free safety Richard Raglin said. "They're a spread offense and have a good quarterback."
"They're very talented on the offensive side of the ball," Kragthorpe said. "Leonard is a good quarterback. He's a multi-dimensional quarterback and does a good job running the ball. He had 120 yards rushing and was 12 of 18 passing last week. He'll employ a lot of the same things we saw against Cincinnati. They've got good receivers and they're very solid in the running game."
ASU leads the Sun Belt conference in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. The Red Wolves shut down FIU's ground game last week, holding them scoreless for the game's last 44 minutes.
"On the defensive side of the ball, they're aggressive with a lot of blitzes," Kragthorpe said. "I would compare them, in terms of their scheme, to Southern Miss what they like to do from a pressure standpoint. They bring a variety of blitzes from different angles. They're a talented team."
ASU shouldn't be scared of playing in front of a hostile crowd against a BCS opponent. The Red Wolves have plenty experience in games like this one, including a win over Texas A&M last year.
"We know it's going to be a challenge, a challenge that we're looking forward to," said Arkansas State coach Steve Robertson. "We hope to compete and play well and challenge for another victory."
"They'll come in here ready to play," Kragthorpe said. "They've played in a lot of big venues. They played Alabama last year. They played at Nebraska and Iowa this year. They beat Texas A&M last year. This team will be ready to play as will ours."
Date October 31, 2009
Radio 84-WHAS AM
Series First meeting