Nov. 14, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky - The University of Louisville offense had one of those games last week against Connecticut. The Cardinals won the game 31-10 to improve to 8-1, but by their own admittance, the offense wasn't sharp.
Penalties and drops by the wide receivers killed drives last week, leaving almost 200 yards on the field, according to offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. Louisville registered a season-low 369 yards of total offense and 81 yards on the ground, which concerned Watson, but he also knew that it was something that hasn't been an epidemic all season.
"The big thing for us was the penalties and the drops," Watson said. "We just have to clean that up and I think we will. We have been pretty consistent all season on offense and it will be a focus for us in practice."
Louisville had trouble against Huskies establishing drives in cold temperatures, scoring only 14 points. The Cardinals looked at times unstoppable, but other drives were stalled by self-afflicted mistakes. Head Charlie Strong indicated that the weather might have played a little bit of a role in the back of the players' minds.
"I don't worry I think this is the first time we have had that number of drops in a game," Strong said. "We made some catches, (Damian) Copeland was very consistent he had six catches. Sometimes guys let weather play a factor into it, which it shouldn't. You just have to get past that with your mature level, guys are considered that it is cold, but it is cold on both sides on the ball too."
The Cardinals pride themselves in running the football, and against the Huskies, the Cardinals couldn't get anything established on the ground. Junior Dominique Brown carried nine times for 29 yards and senior Senorise Perry rushed 11 times for 27 yards and a score. For the game, Louisville ran 30 times for 81 yards, averaging 2.7 yards per carry, the lowest output on the season.
"We just have to keep hammering it," Watson said of the running. "A lot of times, we are just doing what the defense is giving us. But with that said, we are pretty hard-headed, especially on normal downs. We are going to run the football. The execution was there, but it was us not finishing the blocks."
Facing one of the most opportunistic defenses in the country this week, the Cardinals, who have done a great job of protecting the football, UofL has to put more emphasis on ball security in practice. Houston is leading the nation with 18 interceptions and 32 turnovers gained.
"They are a very opportunistic defense," Watson said. "They create turnovers. One of the things we have to do is eliminate those by securing the football, holding it high and tight and keeping two hands around the football in a crowd." The Cardinals have turned the football over eight times this season, but Strong knows his football team must be careful of Houston's ball-hawking tactics.
"The thing that Houston does is force turnovers. They strip balls and they pull balls outs. You see people drive the ball on them and they get down in the red zone and they tighten down their coverage. They force them into throws and they end up coming away with some good interceptions. Then around that tackle there is always someone running up and trying to strip the ball. That is how they create the turnovers."
The Cardinals will certainly be aware of the Cougars' defense, but they also must be worried about the entire Houston team. With a solid offensive attack and a hungry defense, the Cardinals can let Houston walk into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and hand the Cards a second-straight home defeat.