CRAWFORD | At the front of the line of Petrino second-guessers i - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | At the front of the line of Petrino second-guessers is Petrino himself

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 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Saturday night was a sleepless one for Bobby Petrino. If University of Louisville football fans were awake wondering "what might have been" after a 23-17 loss to Clemson that ended when a final play came up short from the Tigers' 2-yard line, they weren't alone.

Petrino said he agonized over the decision to spike the ball on the Clemson 2 with 27 seconds left to play. He said he second-guessed himself on his call on the final play.

"You think about everything when you lose," Petrino said. "None of it's good. Believe me."

Before talking about this weekend's game against N.C. State in his Monday news conference, Petrino went back to the loss at Clemson.

He said the decision to spike the ball on third down was "a bad call."

"When you make a call and it doesn't work and you lose the game, it's a bad call -- and that's all on me," Petrino said. "I take full responsibility for it. And, (in) the situation I did feel like we needed to huddle and get the right play called, but it didn't work out. So therefore, it's a bad call. There's no issue about that."

He said one reason he made the call was a concern over a false-start penalty if the Cards lined up to take quick snap in the no-huddle offense. It had happened five times in the game already.

Petrino also said he wished he'd called a different play for the potential game-winner. After the game, Clemson defensive coaches said they expected the play the Cardinals ran, because Petrino ran it in a similar situation at Western Kentucky last season. While his staff self-scouts routinely, he said it's always a concern when defensive coaches pour over video in such detail.

"We had two plays that we could've called down there," Petrino said. "I wish I had called the other one. That would've been a bunch play, bunch formation, you know, I wish I would've called the other one. You look back on it, you stay awake all night long, thinking you dummy, why didn't you call the other one?"

Petrino said he has "a plan" regarding the quarterback position, but didn't announce it to the media on Monday because he hadn't discussed it with Will Gardner and Reggie Bonnafon. Gardner came on in relief of Bonnafon in the third quarter Saturday and rallied the team.

"He gave us a lift," Petrino said. "Our timing was a bit better, and we were able to throw the ball down the field, and got ourselves in position to win the game."

But Gardner told the media that some of the false-start penalties were a result of the change in quarterback, because he was using a slightly different cadence from the one Bonnafon used.

Regardless, Petrino said the subject of making a change at the position was a topic of discussion between him and offensive coordinator Garrick McGee from halftime on.

"Garrick and I talked about it," he said. "What are we going to do here? Do we make a switch now? No, let's give him another series. We talked about it at halftime, felt like coming out (in the second half) let's get (Bonnafon) moving around, let's run some of our play-action and movement game and let him run the ball a little bit, sometimes with a quarterback that's got great instincts to run the ball, once you get his blood flowing and he makes some plays running that helps him in the passing game."

Clemson, which ranks No. 6 in the nation in total defense, was ready for Bonnafon. They gave him looks that shut down his option game, and stuffed U of L's ground attack, forcing Petrino to go to the air. That's a game Gardner was more ready to embrace, and he completed 10 of 16 passes in nearly leading the comeback.

Petrino said the comeback itself was a positive sign for the offense.

"We got the ball with a minute something left to go and we had to burn all our timeouts to get it," Petrino said. "Our defense came up with a great stop on third down to force a field goal, and all our players took the field believing we would go out there and find a way to win the game, and it almost happened. So that's a step forward from Virginia, because (in) almost the same situation in Virginia where we got the ball late, we couldn't move it at all. So I guess that's something to look at positively."

Petrino said he thinks the team brought a positive attitude to a film and workout session on Sunday evening. He said the offensive problems are across the board -- receivers not getting open against tight coverage, offensive line not protecting, timing off in the passing game. He has multiple areas to address, even as the defense continues to make strides.

He said he spoke to the team on Sunday about staying together, about not having the defense and offense pitted against each other.

When asked about the team's record, Petrino said: "We're not happy about being 5-2. You look back on it, you say you had an opportunity to be 7-0. That's where we want to be. That's what we're working and striving for. That's just where I would rather be."

QUICK HITS

-- Petrino said DeVante Parker
ran with the team Sunday night but remains day-to-day. Asked what his return could mean to the offense, he said, "Does anybody have a crystal ball? . . . You worry about his conditioning. You worry about he hasn't played for a long time. He's a tremendous player. We've all seen that. We've all seen the plays he can make. But you just don't know."

-- Petrino had high praise for the Clemson defense: "Don't take anything away from Clemson now. They're not sixth in the country on defense because they're not great players and they don't play well and have great experience. That was one of the issues preparing for them, going into the game, was going back and looking at last year's video and going, these are all the same guys that played last year for them. They're a very, very good defense. We saw that in the week before when they completely shut down North Carolina State, what they did against Florida State, who of course didn't have their quarterback but they stopped their run game, which no one had done before."

-- Sophomore James Quick has had two costly fumbles in the punt return game, but Petrino said there has been no discussion of making a change: "It's something you are definitely concerned with. Something we work hard at. There's always that 'on the fence,' you know, he looks up at the ball, looks at the rush and decides whether he's going to make a fair catch or whether he's going to run. In doing that he's made some great plays running for us, but he has had the two fumbles that have hurt us, so we have to work hard on him understanding that and then also we need to get our other blocker out there to protect him better and do a better job of getting the first guy down, who is the most dangerous."

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