Maybe Bobby Petrino isn’t a magician after all, unable to get his offense clicking after six games.
Quarterbacks Will Gardner and Reggie Bonnafon struggling, the offensive line making so many false starts, formerly reliable wide receivers dropping balls in their hands. Not what anyone expected from this University of Louisville football team under Bobby Petrino’s leadership. Painful to watch for a fan base that was expecting the complete opposite coming into the season, the anxiety heightened by inexplicable errors in judgement and carelessness with the football.
But such great effort and execution of the defensive side, a defense that hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in four games.
Now we have a better understanding of why Charlie Strong’s offense appeared to struggle against mediocre opponents last season. Remember the narrow seven-point wins over Memphis and Cincinnati in the final two games in the American Athletic Conference? Teddy Bridgewater seemingly carrying the offense on his back. The defense reflects Strong’s emphasis on that side of the ball, the part of the game he knew and coached so well.
Fans may have been expecting too much of the offense to turn things around against a strong Clemson defense on the road. UofL’s defense was probably better than Clemson’s, at least giving the Cardinals a chance to win — that and the fact that Petrino was on the sideline.
Watch for the offense to improve against North Carolina State this week, give them 12 days to prepare for Florida State, give them a healthy DeVante Parker and the outlook could change dramatically. Petrino’s specialty is offense, and he’s still one of the best offensive minds around.
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NC State Coach Dave Doeren was coaching Northern Illinois University that team went 12-0 in 2012 and appeared in the 2013 Orange Bowl. He left before the bowl game to accept his current job.
The Sugar Bowl chose Louisville over NIU, providing the opportunity for UofL to notch a memorable 33-23 win over Florida. Northern Illinois, ranked 16th going into the Orange Bowl, lost 31-10 to Florida State.
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Doeren, whose team won its first four games before losing the past three to ACC opponents, had this to say about Louisville at his weekly press conference:
“Louisville has a really good defense, the No. 1 defense in college football giving up only 14 points a game, 230 yards and 60 yards rushing a game. They have 13 interceptions and No. 8 (Gerod) Holliman has seven of those 13, which is tremendous for a guy to have that many picks. They have a very active “D” line- (Lorenzo) Mauldin has five sacks; their defensive tackle is along the lines of (Eddie) Goldman from FSU. (Sheldon) Rankins is a really good defensive tackle for Louisville as well.
“They’re going to pressure a lot, they mix their coverages and they have multiple fronts. Their defensive coordinators are really good and it’s going to be a great challenge. Our offensive coaches are excited about the challenge and our players will be too. Offensively, Coach Petrino is a very good play caller. He’s got two really physical backs — different sized guys and can both run really hard. Their receivers are really quick; their leading receiver is probably the fastest player we have played thus far … Both quarterbacks are playing, and they’re very different from each other, so we’ll have to be ready for whichever QB steps onto the field.”