Louisville DE: We Must Quit "Babying Ourselves"

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Louisville's marketing slogan this year is "Red Reign." The message is splashed on billboards throughout the city, complete with pictures of the defending Big East champions players staring down at the highway.

It's the most intimidating the Cardinals have looked all season.

Louisville (2-2, 0-1 Big East) is off to its worst start in five years thanks to a defense that can't stop anybody and an offense that, while high-scoring, has stopped itself in crucial situations.

"We have to get back to having fun out there. We have to play with emotion that we're used to showing, the excitement of the Louisville defense," defensive end Brandon Cox said. "I don't think we have that right now, and I'm not really sure why that is."

Neither, it appears, does anyone else.

Defensively, it doesn't seem to matter how or where the Cardinals line up. Zone or man-to-man. Press coverage or prevent. When the ball is in the air, Louisville's defensive backs don't appear to be anywhere in sight.

"Certainly we're not playing good enough pass defense right now to be a good defense," said coach Steve Kragthorpe.

The Cardinals, who are 104th in the country against the pass, would likely settle for simply being "OK" on Saturday when they travel to North Carolina State.

"We just have to quit pretty much babying ourselves and keeping our heads down, show Louisville pride, go out, play defense and stop people," Cox said. "We can't get off the field right now."

There is no quick fix, Kragthorpe said. Though he's continually evaluating players trying to find a mix that works, he knows teams will continue to test Louisville's inexperienced secondary until it proves it can stop people.

"I've been in these situations before, as a player, assistant coach and head coach and the magic formula is work," Kragthorpe said. "We've got to hang together, got to continue to fight, continue to stare adversity in the face and knock it down. We know there's going to be some criticism and we accept that."

Kragthorpe heard plenty of it on Saturday as Louisville lost at home for the first time in four seasons. Things are even worse on local message boards, with some already calling for Kragthorpe, who is in his first year with the Cardinals, to resign.

"What they say on campus or out in public, we can't let that bother us," Cox said.

The challenge for Kragthorpe will be trying to fix the problems without further eroding his team's already shaky confidence.

"You've got to make corrections and you've got to make sure the corrections are being well-communicated," he said. "At the same time, you want to make sure you're positive in getting guys up."

Kragthorpe is vague about making any sweeping changes on the defense, but said there will be changes on offense. Wide receiver Mario Urrutia, who has struggled catching the ball and picked up two personal foul penalties in Saturday's loss to Syracuse, could be benched.

"He's got to be consistent and he's got to keep his emotions in check," Kragthorpe said. "When he gets frustrated, he can't let his emotions show outwardly. He's got to take that frustration and channel it into positive energy."

Wide receiver Harry Douglas, who is third in the country in receiving yards per game, will be available after being injured late in the fourth quarter against Syracuse.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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