In three attempts, the Cardinals have never beaten USF in Tampa. Two years ago, the Bulls rolled all over Steve Kragthorpe's first team 55-17. Even Bobby Petrino couldn't find a way to dispatch USF at Raymond James, going 0-2 against the Bulls in Tampa, including a 45-14 whipping in 2005.
The other streak isn't flattering for embattled head coach Steve Kragthorpe. In three seasons at UofL, Kragthorpe has never won consecutive Big East games. With a 10-9 win over Syracuse last week, Kragthorpe has a chance to end that streak. He's 5-14 in the Big East overall.
While Louisville won their first league game of the season last week against the Orange, snapping a nine-game Big East losing skid, USF suffered a 31-0 loss at Rutgers last Thursday. Both teams are limping into today's contest having dropped three of their last four games.
"We know it will be a great challenge to go down there, it always is," Kragthorpe said. "They've got a very good football team. They didn't play real well against Rutgers but they always play well at home. I know we'll have a great challenge going to Tampa to play them. For some reason they've always played well against us at home. They've got a good home field advantage."
Though Louisville's defense has played well the past two weeks against West Virginia and Syracuse, the Cardinals offense has been anemic. Louisville has scored just one touchdown in their past two games and racked up just 151 yards of total offense against the Orange.
"I think our defense is starting to hit its stride," Kragthorpe said. "Offensively we've been very inconsistent. We've got to be able to run the football better than we did last Saturday."
"I haven't done as good a job as I need to and that's on me," Kragthorpe said. "I'm the head coach and the offensive coordinator so I've got to do a better job of putting our guys in a position to make plays."
Louisville enters Saturday's contest against USF last in the Big East in scoring offense, passing efficiency and sacks allowed. The Cardinals also rank near the bottom in total offense and rushing offense. Louisville has scored 10 or fewer points in 4 of 5 league games this season.
"It's kind of hard to put your finger on it but the offense isn't firing on all cylinders," quarterback Adam Froman said. "It's one little thing here and one thing there. We've got to focus on getting some momentum from the beginning of the game. We've got to run the ball hard and start completing some passes."
It would help if Vic Anderson, the team's leading rusher, can play. Kragthorpe said the sophomore wants to play against USF but will be a game-time decision because of a shoulder that he re-injured last week. Without Anderson most of the game, Louisville rushed for just 34 yards against the Orange.
"I think the biggest thing is I've got to get the ball into our playmakers hands," said Kragthorpe. "We've got to put those guys in position to get them matched up. We've got to get the right guys in the right spots in the right configurations with matchups so they can get the ball and make plays."
Kragthorpe has started three different quarterbacks this season which has negatively impacted the continuity of the offense.
"The biggest thing is that we've played so many quarterbacks," said Kragthorpe. "Adam did some good things the other day but you could tell he was rusty because he hadn't played in three weeks."
Froman is expected to make his second consecutive start and he'll face an athletic USF defense that ranks first in passing defense in the Big East and has allowed just 19 points per game this year.
"They've got a very good defense," Kragthorpe said. "They're fast and physical. We've got to be able to run the football better than we ran it [last] week and convert third downs."
The Louisville defense will focus on stopping USF quarterback B.J. Daniels and a good receiving corps led by Carlton Mitchell. Daniels leads the Bulls in rushing with 530 yards and is tied for the team-lead in touchdowns with four. Mitchell has 29 catches for 542 yards and four scores.
"Daniels is a guy you hold your breath every time he drops back to pass. He's got a great arm and he manufactures plays," Kragthorpe said. "[Mike]Ford's a great back and they've got a good stable of receivers.. it's a very deep group of receivers."
Kragthorpe said his defensive line will be critical to his team's chances of success against the USF offense.
"I think we've got to do a great job controlling the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball hopefully containing the quarterback so he can't make as many plays down the field off the scramble," Kragthorpe said.
If Louisville can find a way to knock off the Bulls, the Cardinals would have an opportunity to avoid a second straight losing season next week against Rutgers.
"We know we've got to win out to be bowl eligible..this is the first test," Froman said. "It doesn't do any good to worry about what we're going to do against Rutgers if we don't win this weekend. We're approaching this game like it's a playoff game and it's a must-win."
Date November 21, 2009
Kickoff 12:00 p.m.
Location Tampa, Fla
Radio 84-WHAS AM
Series Series is tied 3-3