CRAWFORD | With 'scramble' over, Petrino hopes Louisville offens - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | With 'scramble' over, Petrino hopes Louisville offense will get healthy against FSU

Posted: Updated:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Before this season, everybody had an expectation of what the University of Louisville offense would look like with Bobby Petrino taking over for Charlie Strong and a number of skill-position players back.

Then DeVante Parker broke his foot before the season. And Michael Dyer suffered a deep thigh bruise. And there were other injuries at running back, and the offensive line was slow to develop, and given all that, the quarterbacks struggled.

In fact, in the past month, Petrino and his staff have been scrambling, with starting quarterback Will Gardner injured, then needing to replace freshman Reggie Bonnafon at Clemson and getting Gardner ready the next week. They got Parker back before their home game against North Carolina State nine days ago, but didn't really know how much he'd be available before that game, or how effective he would be.

You could say that the past week or so has been the first time since preseason that Petrino had anything resembling the offense that he hoped to have heading into this season. And he said that has been a huge benefit to the team and staff as it prepares for No. 2-ranked and defending national champion Florida State, which will visit Papa John's Cardinal Stadium Thursday night in a 7:30 p.m. ESPN game.

"It was a scramble mode," he said. "We had guys dropping, and different guys in there. I think our guys handled it well. I thought when we had to have change at quarterback that everyone rallied around Reggie and he handled it very maturely, and we were able to win a couple of games with him as the starting quarterback. We had different running backs in there, and without DeVante. It's nice to have all our weapons back, and hopefully we'll go out and show that we know how to execute with them."

Speaking to reporters on Monday evening after practice, Petrino said he'd seen some of the best practices of the season from his offense. He said the goal with Gardner has been to just have him thinking about executing the offense, recognizing what will be across from him on defense, and knowing where the receivers should be.

"I think we've looked as sharp here in the last couple of weeks as we have looked all season," Petrino said. "Obviously it's fun to have DeVante back out there. I felt like coming out of the last game against North Carolina State was the closest we looked to our offense, being able to do the things we like to do. . . . Will's had a good week of practice. He's snapping the ball and throwing it well, so he's done a good job."

U of L looked more like a Petrino offense against N.C. State, but it still didn't score like a Petrino offense. It left a couple of touchdowns on the field with passes Gardner didn't see. But now that Gardner has Parker not only to go up and make catches but to draw the attention of the defense, Petrino has some game-planning freedom he didn't have before.

And he says Parker has made strides in recent practices, even after catching a career-high nine passes for 132 yards.

"He's looked really good yesterday and today," Petrino said of Parker. "Last week, or two weeks ago I guess it was, going into the North Carolina State game you saw glimpses of it, and you thought, okay, how much is he going to be able to go out there and how well is he going to be able to perform? Obviously he went way above our expectations in that game. But the past couple of days he's really looked back to himself, really looked back to exploding after the catches. It feels a lot better for him, you can see that, and he's said that."

He also says running back Michael Dyer continues to progress. Dyer had 173 yards on 24 carries against N.C. State. And he's not the only healthy running back. Brandon Radcliff, who led the Cards in rushing yards in wins over Wake Forest and Syracuse, is back from a toe injury.

"Radcliff is back going full speed, which is great to see," Petrino said. "He's had an issue with his toe that has bothered him on and off. He's been back there competing hard, and Dom (Brown) looks good, and Michael looks even better than he looked before the North Carolina State game and L.J (Scott's) ankle is better, so we're getting back healthy where we need to be."

Florida State doesn't bring a particularly complicated defense, nor one that has put up gaudy statistics. What the Seminoles do have is a very athletic front four, and a defense that will mix things up on third down.

"They're very physical up front," Petrino said. "They've got two big guys inside and they do a good job in their secondary with their coverage. They don't do a lot, but they do it real well. And then on third down they do a lot. The biggest thing for us is to be able to execute and convert third downs. If we're doing that, I feel like we'll have some success."

U of L's defense remains the top-ranked unit in the defense in yards allowed. It leads the nation in sacks. But FSU quarterback James Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, brings his own set of credentials. He's started 20 games for FSU. The Seminoles have scored at least 30 points in every one of them. Even if the Cardinals' defense plays well, FSU is going to score. For the Cards to pull an upset, their offense is going to have to be a major contributor.

Even when a defense does the right things against Winston, he can make a great play and erase it. Petrino said his team needs to understand that, and to understand that it will be a game of runs.

"You've got to be able to play one play at a time, and the whole team does," Petrino said. "We've got to understand, in games like this, the momentum swings back and forth.  They've got great players, they're going to make plays, we're going to make plays. The most important play is the next one, and to be able to focus and concentrate on doing your job the next play. . . . We have to be in the game in the fourth quarter and have an opportunity to win it in the fourth quarter. And I believe our guys will be confident in the fact that we'll get it done then."

Copyright 2014 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
  • Sign Up for the WDRB Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WDRB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.