LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
The bye week might be what the doctor ordered for the University of Louisville football team.
Coming off a 45-26 loss to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome last Saturday, the Cardinals will get a much-needed week off to rest before closing out the home portion of their schedule on Saturday, Nov. 24, at noon against Connecticut.
The Cardinals, after suffering their first loss of the year, gave up a season-high 524 yards of total offense and 278 yards on the ground. Louisville fell behind 31-13 at the half and could never fully recover, dropping its record to 9-1 overall, 4-1 in the BIG EAST.
“Our open week comes at the right time,” said head coach Charlie Strong. “For our players, they just need to rest mentally and physically. This has been a special season. Our players have made an unbelievable run. The bigger goal is still to be met. The important thing is for us not to let one setback turn to frustration, excuse making, lack of responsibility and poor individual habits. Always look at what we have left. Never look back at what we have lost. A losing team looks for excuses. A championship team looks for solutions. Some losses are only deposits for a later victory.”
The biggest concern heading into the week off has to be on defense, where the Cardinals have yet to figure out how to stop the run. In the last four league games, the Cardinals are yielding an average of 231.0 yards rushing, which certainly hasn’t been the norm for one of the best teams in the nation versus the rush.
Eli Rogers had 97 yards receiving and a touchdown in the loss to Syracuse.
“Concern on defense is tackling and just gap control,” said Strong. “Just looking at Saturday’s game, it was a player out of his gap. Then, once the ball breaks the line of scrimmage, get the guy on the ground. We didn’t do that. We didn’t get the guy down. If you look at the one throw to (Alec) Lemon, he catches the ball and then he’s able to cut back on the free safety for a touchdown. The running back (Prince-Tyson Gulley) comes out of there for 55 yards. The safety hit him and he breaks through the tackle for a touchdown. Then, we give up another big, long run. It’s all about tackling.”
The Cardinals suffered a big loss in Saturday’s game versus when the team’s leading rusher, Senorise Perry, was lost for the season with a knee injury. Perry went out early in the game, and the Cardinals couldn’t get their rushing game on track, running for a season-low 48 yards.
“I think we will be OK running the football,” said Strong. “You look at the running backs and you know Senorise was a big-time part of our running game. Now with Jeremy Wright, he’s going to have to shoulder more of the load. Now with Corvin coming in, you look at the one screen pass we threw out there to him. He went down the sideline for 53 yards. He’s very talented. You miss Senorise just because he’s played so much. Now you have to bring in a guy who hasn’t played much at all.”
This will be the second off week for the Cardinals this fall. They came off an open week in early October and posted a big win in the conference opener versus Pittsburgh. However, this off week is valuable because the Cardinals are a little beat up mentally and physically following the loss. However, Strong has delivered the message and he hopes his young team hears what he is saying.
“I told them, ‘Guys, I know this. We go to Syracuse and we got our butt kicked in,” said Strong. “Still though, you have to beat Rutgers to go win it.’ So, your goal is still there. Whatever is in front of us is still there. It’s all about taking care of Connecticut. Let’s not worry about Rutgers.
With just two games left on the schedule, Strong must get his team to focus on the task-at-hand, and use this week off to get healthy and work on fundamentals. If they can do that, they can get ready for what for sure will be an exciting run at another BIG EAST title.