LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One of the most telling characteristics of a team is how it handles adversity.
The Cardinals have dropped three-consecutive games, including two to top-15 opponents. However, like the team, the season is young, and Louisville is hoping to grow from its mistakes.
Losers of their first three games by a total of 13 points, the Cardinals are looking to snap a four-game losing streak dating back to last season, which is the longest since 2008 when UofL dropped five games to close the season.
It’s a streak that head coach Bobby Petrino, who owns a 50-16 record at Louisville, hasn’t seen during his tenure, but the sixth-year bench boss is trying to cope with it the best way possible.
“One of the things you try to do when you lose a game is not let your emotions take over in the locker room after the game,” head coach Bobby Petrino said at his Monday press conference. “I have found one of the best things to do is be short, be to the point and then we come back in for our team meeting on Sunday or in that case we had it Friday afternoon. I probably wasn’t real quiet Friday afternoon maybe I should have been.”
After a heart-wrenching 20-17 loss to Clemson last Thursday in the ACC opener, the Cardinals are trying to pick up the pieces, and get back to their winning ways that has seen the program post five consecutive winning seasons.
They began the process on Sunday night, and Petrino liked what he saw from his young squad.
“We practiced last night and they had a good attitude. We worked hard and kept the young guys out there and practiced them more and the guys that played in the game ran. They conditioned hard, good work ethic, come back on Tuesday and learn a lot more where we are at.”
The Cardinals are in desperate need of a win on Saturday when Samford comes to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the first time. Despite being a first time opponent, the Cardinals will have familiarity with Samford head coach Chris Hatcher, who spent time as the head coach of Murray State, who played at Louisville last season.
“We played Murray State last year, and they run the same offense,” Petrino said. “(Chris) Hatcher does a great job with it, they run fast tempo, they are going to throw the football, ” Petrino said. “They have a big quarterback with a strong arm, they have two really good wide receivers that have made a lot of plays and can catch the ball so they are going to try and go fast on us. A lot of it will be very similar to what Murray did last year.”
Most of the Cardinals’ problems this year have stemmed from the offensive side of the ball with a number of freshmen playing key roles. The Cardinals scored 17 points, a low during the Petrino, versus Clemson last week.
The Cardinals have started three different quarterbacks in the first three contests, and are continuing to look for consistency at that position, which would help the execution of the offense.
“Yeah again when you play the quarterback, it is about decision making and execution so we missed on some decisions, we missed on some executions but it is all 11 guys too there,” Petrino said.
“It is a lot easier to execute when you have space, there is no bodies around you because we are doing a great job setting the pocket and widening the pocket. It is a lot easier to play quarterback when you have that type of space and when guys can separate and get open and it is just a work in progress.”
The youth and inexperience on the offensive line has showed up against a pair of stellar defensive lines in Auburn and Clemson in two of the first three games. Having lost two starters to the draft another to graduation, the Cardinals continue to grow up quickly on the line.
“A lot of times, Clemson committed eight or nine guys to the run, to stop the run and force you to throw the ball, so it was tough to run,” Petrino said. “The offensive line has made progress. One thing I thought we did in the second half, we had an opportunity there on the first drive where we mixed it up on some of the quick passing game, some of the play-action game, put in a nice drive together and scored.”
The Cardinals must continue to show growth this week in practice in preparation for Saturday’s game. If the Cardinals can continue to improve, then adversity will be a thing of the past.