CRAWFORD | After unexpected 0-3 start, Petrino, Cardinals, findi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | After unexpected 0-3 start, Petrino, Cardinals, finding ways to cope

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Louisville coach Bobby Petrino during the team's season-opening loss to Auburn. (AP photo) Louisville coach Bobby Petrino during the team's season-opening loss to Auburn. (AP photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — This hasn’t happened around here for a while. The University of Louisville football team is 0-3, fans are on edge, players and coaches are disappointed and the mood is somber instead of celebratory.

It’s a new thing for Cardinals’ coach Bobby Petrino, too.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been 0-3,” Petrino said after last Thursday’s 20-17 loss to Clemson in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

How are they all handling it? When asked during Monday’s news conference, Petrino reached way back for a story — all the way to his days as an assistant coach at Arizona State in the early 1990s. 

“I was coaching at Arizona State, we were playing UCLA, and I got into the elevator and (UCLA offensive coordinator) Homer Smith got in with me,” Petrino said. “I was just standing there, I was young and I felt pretty good because we were ahead of them and we weren't expected to beat them. And Homer got in there and turned his back to me and started pounding his head against the wall, and I said to the GA who was with me at the time, 'Hey man, if I ever get like that just shoot me.' Well, I think he just loaded his gun, so that's about where I'm at.”

Players didn’t know what to expect immediately after the Clemson loss. They trudged into the locker room — for a second straight week without having even walked around the stadium for their traditional thanking of the fans — and waited for an eruption from Mount Petrino.

Instead, they encountered something different.

“When we came back, we expected to get chewed out,” running back L.J. Scott said. “But he was real soft-spoken with us, because he understood that the losses really hit us hard. But he’s still going about the way he did before we lost the games.”

Petrino said it’s a fine line between correcting mistakes and making sure the confidence of a young team isn’t destroyed by some close losses early to good teams.

“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,” Petrino said. “So I’ve always found the best thing to do is be short, to the point, and then we come back in and have our team meeting. I wasn’t real quiet Friday afternoon. Maybe I should have been.”

It’s not his own voice, however, that Petrino is most concerned with. When you’re 0-3, the voices your players hear on the way to class, or on social media, or even in the media, can be difficult to handle.

He’s encouraged his players to tune it all out, though he hasn’t demanded that they stay off of social media.

“With social media, with publicity, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly and they see it all,” he said. “We all see it all. We all get criticized. You have to be thick-skinned. That’s what I mean when I say that it challenges your belief and how you go about your business. I truly believe that we know the process. We know how to work. We know how to prepare guys. We just have to stick to it and believe in ourselves. That’s everybody in the program right now.”

Defensive lineman DeAngelo Brown says the program’s veterans have a responsibility to keep the younger players engaged, even if many of them aren’t used to losing streaks. He said social media isn’t a problem for him.

“I feel like you should stay off of that stuff whether you’re winning or losing,” he said. “That can be big distraction in itself. As a team, you just have to not worry about what people say. We just let people know that we’re a family and we have each other’s backs and we know we just have to continue to step up and play hard.”

Scott said, “All through the spring and starting summer camp we had the motto ‘normalize discomfort,’ and starting 0-3 is as uncomfortable as you’re going to get. So now that it’s here you just have to keep a positive attitude and know that it can’t get worse from here. The morale of the team is to move forward and not go back. Last year we lost three games in the regular season. We’ve already lost those three so now the plan is to win out.”

One thing the 0-3 start has not done is cause Petrino to reconsider difficult games to open the season. He’s had success with big games in the opener, and said he’s not inclined to change that philosophy.

“Opening with a good game is something I’ve always enjoyed,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the preparation for it. I think it’s helped our team. We had a schedule set and it looked like a really good schedule. We just needed a couple more plays. We are where we’re at right now. What we need to do is just focus on improving and getting better and going out and winning the next game.”

NOTES: Petrino said wideout James Quick ran Sunday for the first time since an ankle injury against Auburn in the opener and could return to practice in a limited capacity on Tuesday. . . . He said wideout Ja’Quay Savage is still out with a sprained knee. . . . Petrino would not name a quarterback starter for Saturday’s game against Samford, saying he would continue to evaluate Lamar Jackson, Kyle Bolin and Reggie Bonnafon in practice this week. . . . Will Gardner returned to practice last week, but Petrino didn’t indicate whether he would be a part of the quarterback competition this week.

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