Despite Gaudy Numbers, Cariinals Look to Improve High-Powered Attack

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Looking at the tape of Louisville's 40-34 loss to Kentucky last week, the perfectionist in quarterback Brian Brohm wouldn't shut up.

Despite throwing for 366 yards and two touchdowns, Brohm noticed the little mistakes that turned into Louisville's first loss to its archrival in five years.

"We missed some opportunities," Brohm said. "We moved the ball well, I thought. We only had to punt twice. We didn't score when we got down in the red zone. Another time we kind of stalled and had to try a long field goal. We've got to take advantage of those opportunities and not hurt ourselves."

It's in Brohm's nature to nitpick. But if the 18th-ranked Cardinals (2-1) want to compete for a second straight Big East title, they'd like to incorporate more playmakers in the offense.

"Across the board, whether it's tight ends, running backs or wide receivers, we're looking for guys who can step up and make plays with the ball in their hands," coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "We're continually looking for guys who can do that in challenging environments."

So far, only wide receiver Harry Douglas and running back Anthony Allen have consistently met the challenge. Douglas set a school record with 223 yards receiving against the Wildcats, as Brohm turned to him whenever the Cardinals needed to make a big play.

Allen, meanwhile, has erased any doubts about his durability. Besides setting a school record with 275 yards in a win over Middle Tennessee, he added 96 yards against Kentucky, highlighted by a nifty hurdle over a Wildcat defender and some tough yards between the tackles.

"He's becoming more of a complete player and a guy that can play on every down," Kragthorpe said.

Yet Kragthorpe would prefer it not come to that. Kragthorpe likens each running play to a car accident and wants to divvy up the carries whenever possible. Injuries, however, have forced Allen into the spotlight. Sergio Spencer and Brock Bolen didn't play against the Wildcats, and the Cardinals had no real alternatives when it came to giving Allen a breather.

Kragthorpe hopes that will change on Saturday when the Cardinals host Syracuse (0-3) and when he may give defensive-back-turned-running-back Bilal Powell an audition to get into the rotation.

"We actually planned on giving him a little bit the other night, but the complexion of the game didn't start out the way we wanted," Kragthorpe said. "He's a guy who was a multiple-position player in high school. He's got a lot of speed and explosiveness."

Douglas has been his usual steady self and tight end Gary Barnidge has become a legitimate threat at the goal line. But teammate Mario Urrutia, although averaging 19.2 yards per catch, has let several catchable balls get away from him.

"I think Mario would tell you he's a little bit inconsistent right now in terms of catching the football," Kragthorpe said. "He has such great ability of advancing the ball after the catch, and sometimes he forgets about the catch because he's excited about the opportunity to advance it."

Kragthorpe has stressed the Cardinals getting back to basics after the loss to Kentucky. For the defense, it means simply lining up right and trying to improve. For the offense, it means resolving whatever tiny wrinkles Kragthorpe believes exist.

The loss also blunted some of the early-season momentum behind Brohm's Heisman Trophy campaign. Though he's reluctant to talk about his prospects of the award, Brohm thinks he -- and the Cardinals -- have plenty of time to recover.

"It's a long season," Brohm said. "I think that to be in that race you do have to be on a very good team, and I still think we do have the ability to be a very good team. There have been a lot of guys who won it who were just on a BCS bowl team and not the national championship team. There is still opportunity there, but I'm not really sure where everyone really sits in that race. It's too early in the season to talk about that now."

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