Louisville, Syracuse eye first Big East win

Louisville and Syracuse are both struggling entering this Saturday's tilt at PJCS, but the winner will earn their first Big East win of the season this weekend.

Louisville enters Saturday's game against Syracuse 0-4 in the Big East. The Orange also are winless through four league games this season under first-year coach Doug Marrone.

That means one of these struggling teams is going to notch their first Big East win of the season this weekend while the other, most likely, will be relegated to the league's cellar.

The Cardinals are coming off a 17-9 loss to West Virginia. Louisville played solid defense in the loss but couldn't get into the end zone with walk-on quarterback Will Stein leading the way.

"We're extremely disappointed we didn't come away with a win," Kragthorpe said. "There was various points of time in the game to seize momentum with touchdowns where we had to settle for field goals. The defense played one of our better games of the year."

The Orange started the started the season 2-2, including a win over Northwestern, but have dropped four of their past five games, including a 37-10 loss to Pittsburgh last week.

"Syracuse is a team very similar to us," Kragthorpe said. "They're very beat up and playing a lot of young guys. They've got good quality athletes. We're going to have to play well to beat them."

Will there be another change at quarterback this week for Louisville?
Louisville could get running back Victor Anderson back this week against the Orange. Anderson missed the Cardinals last two games with injury but leads the team with 480 rushing yards and five touchdowns. In his absence, Darius Ashley carried the load against the Mountaineers, gaining 164 yards on 33 carries.

"It's just a matter of getting him cleared by the doctors but it sounds good," Kragthorpe said. "He's going to see the doctors today. He practiced yesterday and we kept him after and got him some work with the quarterbacks. I anticipate that he's going to be back in the lineup against Syracuse. Dr. Shea...said he should be cleared [over the weekend]."

Anderson's return could give Louisville's ground game a boost against the Orange, who rank first in the Big East against the run.

"Victor is a great competitor. I know this has been hard on him not being able to play at full strength and missing the last couple weeks," said Kragthorpe.

Kragthorpe also said that defensive backs Andrew Robinson and Karldell Dunning could play this week against Syracuse. Robinson started at cornerback against Southern Mississippi but missed the past three games with a groin injury. Running back Bilal Powell was limited to one carry vs. WVU because of turf toe. His effectiveness remains in doubt.

The situation at quarterback is still unsettled. Louisville has started three different quarterbacks this season and still is searching for a proven winner. Stein started the past two games but the Cardinals managed just three field goals from Chris Philpott against West Virginia. Adam Froman, who is 1-3 in four starts this season, might be back in the mix this week against Syracuse.

"I think Adam's going to be back. Will would be the starter if we played today but we'll see how Adam does," Kragthorpe said. "Justin [Burke] could be back, too. I'm not sure yet. We'll see how the week of practice goes and roll from there."

Kragthorpe was asked if Louisville's poor attendance in their home game against Arkansas State – a PJCS record-low 21,497 – was an indictment of his program on the Big East coaches conference Monday morning. Kragthorpe said he hoped fans would turn out in better numbers this week to show support for the program's seniors.

"We've got great fans here in Louisville," he said. "They may be upset with the things I've done and not like me and that's OK. Everybody can have an opinion and they're entitled to an opinion. What I would like our fans to do is come support these players. We've got a great group of senior players that have done a lot for this program and community. I think they're deserving of the support of our fans the last two home games against Syracuse and Rutgers. If they don't like me that's fine but I hope they come out and support the players."

Louisville enters the tenth game of the year with a 3-6 record. The Cardinals have lost nine straight Big East games and are just 3-11 in the last 14 games under Kragthorpe. Now with three games remaining this season, Kragthorpe hopes his team can turn the tide on the field.

"We've got to find ways to win games," Kragthorpe said. "That's one of the things we talked about with our team yesterday is that this is the fourth quarter of the season. We have to win all three to get to a bowl game and that's our goal. This is it for us, we're in the last quarter of the season and we have to finish strong."

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