SCRIMMAGE: Offense outlasts defense

Louisville's offense won the first spring scrimmage two weeks ago. Last week, the defense evened the score. Saturday morning, despite a slow start, the Cardinals offense outlasted their defensive counterparts.

Louisville's offense won the first spring scrimmage two weeks ago. Last week, the defense evened the score. Saturday morning, despite a slow start, the Cardinals offense outlasted their defensive counterparts.

The Cardinal defense held the offense in check early in the scrimmage, but quarterbacks Adam Froman and Justin Burke, and running back Bilal Powell eventually got the offense moving toward the end zone. Powell opened the scoring with a short touchdown run, then Froman connected with receiver Josh Chichester for another score. During the red zone portion of the scrimmage, the offense scored almost at will.

"[Strong] told us that the offense executed more than the defense today," Adam Froman said. "I think the defense played a little better than us the first third of the scrimmage but the second two-thirds we were up and down the field, especially with the ones, doing what we wanted to do. Coach Strong said he was happy with that but he was asking for more out of the defense this week before the spring game."

With their third major scrimmage of spring drills complete, Strong's team now heads into the last week of spring practice – a week of practice that will culminate with next Friday's Red-White spring game.

"It was another good scrimmage," Charlie Strong said. "You have to look at a scrimmage just like practice but without all the drill work. We still have to work on our fundamentals."

For the most, Strong seemed pleased with the offensive execution. He wasn't happy, however, with his offenses continued turnovers and mistakes in the red zone.

Louisville's defense didn't finish strong during Saturday's scrimmage.
"We had some big plays," Strong said. "Bilal Powell has probably had one of the best springs, him and our kicker [Chris Philpott]. Offensively, we're executing. We moved the ball down the field but we had two high snaps [in the red zone] and we can't have that and then we threw an interception."

Powell has been Louisville's star this spring. The senior is stronger and faster than ever and he's made big plays seemingly during every practice and scrimmage. He's also holding on to the ball, a problem that has plagued him in the past.

"He's running so hard and he's a lot stronger and [faster]," Strong said. "He's a senior and he's coming into his own. He's able to go longer."

"Once he gets into the second level he's making guys fall down, he's running guys over, whatever the situation calls for," Froman said of Powell. "He is making our offense go right now."

Strong says he's seen lots of progress this spring from the offense, which is learning offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's spread-option attack. Strong continues to give praise to Louisville's offensive line and credits them for much of the offensive success during spring practice.

"Offensively, we've done well all spring," Strong said. "Each day they've continued to get better. What's good is we have two senior quarterbacks and [Powell] has really stepped it up and is running hard. But our offensive line is moving people out of the way and creating gaps for Powell to run through."

Still, Strong wants his offense to clean up it's act before the spring game. There have been too many turnovers and high shotgun snaps that have cost the offense scoring opportunities throughout spring practice. The offense threw an interception in the end zone Saturday, and had trouble with the snap in scoring position.

"It's the center-quarterback exchange and that's what we have to work on out of the shotgun," Strong said. "It was on the goal line and that's a critical area and you don't want to turn the ball over down there."

Froman placed part of the blame on center Mario Benavides' injured wrist.

"Mario had a tape-job on his hand this morning and was kind of cutting his wrist off a little bit," said Froman. "As soon as he gets that off everything will be fine. It's nothing to worry about."

Though the defense made a few plays early in the scrimmage, they gave up too many big plays and wore down late in the scrimmage.

"Defensively, we have to execute the defense," Strong said. "That's what we're not doing right now. There are too many big plays...we're giving up too many big plays. That's just from execution. Early in the scrimmage they made some stops but as the scrimmage went on it looked like they got tired. We have to finish the game. That's what we weren't able to do last year and we have to finish the game."

With his first spring practice almost in the books, Strong feels that his team has bought into his program and has made solid progress learning a new system.

"This was practice number eleven and I think they have a sense of what's going on," said Strong. "They're adjusting. Every now and then they might have a breakdown but it's a learning process. They know the rules and know what we expect of them."

Things are going well off the field this spring, too. Friday, Strong landed commitments from three-star cornerback Jacquese Kirk and defensive back Eric Robinson-Baker. Louisville now has eight commitments in the Class of 2011, including one four-star recruit and a trio of three-star prospects.

"We recruit every day," Strong said. "Recruiting is something that we have to do each day. In order to get this program back to where it needs to be we're going to have to recruit."

Louisville returns to practice Monday at 4 p.m. on the practice fields at PJCS.

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