CRAWFORD | Horror film: Louisville football once again faces a c - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Horror film: Louisville football once again faces a crisis moment

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Bobby Petrino and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher shake hands after Saturday's 41-21 FSU victory. (AP photo) Bobby Petrino and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher shake hands after Saturday's 41-21 FSU victory. (AP photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Imagine you’re just a regular college student. Maybe you’ve just finished, oh, say, a psychology test, and you’ve gotten a question wrong.

The professor projects your test question onto the wall, as your classmates watch. “Let me ask you,” she begins, “were you taught that the hypothalamus regulates muscle movement? Is that what we discussed in class? Is that what your book says?”

(It doesn’t, by the way. They hypothalamus regulates thirst, hunger, sleep, mood and sex drive, among others). More video: The professor shows you marking the wrong answer on your test. “Is that what you were coached to do?” comes the question. "How can you explain your effort on that question? Why?"

In some ways, when we talk — at any university — about football players (or other athletes) and the games they play, it strikes me that if they were held to the same standard in school that they are in football, they’d probably wind up curing cancer, or at least the common cold.

But that’s the very scenario University of Louisville football players were enduring on Sunday, after a 41-21 loss at No. 11 Florida State on Saturday.

For head coach Bobby Petrino, it was a head-scratcher. The Cardinals led 7-6 at halftime, had kept the Florida State offense in check and given up only 4.5 yards per play. In the second half, the Cardinals gave up 9.5 yards per play, and the Seminoles scored 35 points.

So coaches fired up the video on Sunday, and began the hard business of deconstructing what happened in Tallahassee, so that they can build things back up once again.

“We addressed it yesterday,” Petrino said. “You watch the video and you ask, are you doing what you're coached to do and are you playing with great effort? We played it over and over again and we have guys who are very competitive, so it's hard for them watching that video. But we can't accept it, they can't accept it, their teammates can't accept it. We’ve just got to grow together and make sure it doesn't happen.”

Petrino was particularly perturbed by his defense. He wondered whether his defensive players got tired. He struggled, even two days later, to explain what happened. He couldn’t think of a similar experience to which to compare the second-half defense that he saw Saturday.

“In my however many years I've been coaching, it's really the first time I've seen it,” Petrino said. “I don't get it. I really don't. It wasn't just effort. I want to reiterate that. We had some errors. . . . In the first half, we were doing things right, we were playing fast, we were playing with great effort, we tackled well. We would have gotten every single one of our goals on defense in the first half, and then in the second half it was complete opposite. We made errors in the calls, we didn't play as fast and as hard as we need to. . . . And when you play against a good team like that with an elite running backs, he magnifies your errors.”

Now, it's the rest of U of L's season that goes under the magnifying glass. This team stands at 2-4. I picked them to finish 8-4 on the season. That means they can lose exactly (give me a minute to do the math) zero games the rest of the way to meet my expectations — and mine were lower than many.

Petrino already has gotten his team through one crisis. The 0-3 start took some of the wind out of the sails, but he said he thought his team bounced back.

“I was kind of impressed with the way we stuck together and the way we practiced and the attitude,” Petrino said of the team’s response after its 0-3 start. “This one will challenge us a little bit more than when we were 0-3. We prepared for this game for two weeks. We thought we had a really good plan. We went out. We were right there. And then we let it go, and then we didn't play as hard as we should play. This one challenges us more than when we were 0-3. This is a big week for us to come back and get some leadership from within the team and practice hard and practice with purpose and really do a good job preparing for this game.”

The game is a 12:30 p.m. homecoming kickoff on Saturday against Boston College, ranked No. 1 in the nation in defense, but as offensively challenged as any team the Cardinals will face.

If U of L wins, the schedule eases up, and it could once again build some momentum for a run to end the season. If the Cardinals stumble, you start to wonder if they’ll get up again.

Petrino says he’s trying to be careful to strike the right balance, noting, “I think sometimes, when you really want to make a point, you speak a little softer than normal.”

He says the worst thing his players can do is the kind of math I just did — figuring how many wins will get them into which bowl.

“What you have to do is say, whether we're 2-4, 4-2, or whatever, you have to put everything behind you and move forward,” Petrino said. “We do want to get the seniors to a bowl game. I think that's something that is real important -- it helps our young guys practice more and get better. The No. 1 way to do that is just focus on this Boston College game. That's what you really have to do, is just focus on this game right now, at home, on homecoming, and come out and perform well for four quarters. Do what you're coached to do. Play hard. Play with great effort for four quarters.”

Petrino thought that what he could expect at Florida State. If he doesn’t get it against Boston College, the video sessions that follow could well be titled, "Nightmare on Floyd Street."

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