A steady rain didn’t damper the progress the University of Louisville football team was trying to make as it returned to full pads on Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s Homecoming game versus Boston College at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
The Cardinals are coming off a 39-25 loss at NC State on Thursday and, at the direction of head coach Bobby Petrino, spent each day since then focusing on making adjustments.
“We’ve got to get better, and we’ve got to get better now so we can go win this game on Saturday,” Petrino said. “We’ve got to break them down, teach them and work them in individual drills, take them over to group drills, and then take them to the team periods. One of the things you have to do is keep going and keep working at it.”
Bringing the No. 5 offense into the game, the Cardinals have been productive, but have been bogged down at times – evident in the loss to the Wolfpack. Louisville committed 10 penalties, six on offense, which consistently pushed the unit in the opposite direction.
“We just have to keep working,” tight ends coach Chris Klenakis said. “The attitude we came out to practice was good. We still have to clean up our mistakes, but the attitude and the focus is right. Everyone understands that we aren’t playing at the level that we expect of ourselves, but we have to get there.”
The Cardinals – averaging 557.5 yards of total offense – are picking up chunks of yardage, but, at times haven’t been consistent like Petrino is accustomed too over the years.
Against NC State on Thursday night, the Cardinals punted four times in the first half, and six in the game, but also had to kick a pair of field goals instead of putting the football into the end zone.
“It’s the small things,” senior tight end Charles Standberry said. “The little things in a game that people don’t catch, like someone not holding on to a block long enough – the small things that people don’t see, which is really holding us back.
A fourth-year senior, Standberry has been one of the bright spots offensively this season. He is leading the tight end position with a career-high 15 receptions for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“Charles has done a nice job this season,” Klenakis said. “He’s a senior who has been in the offense for four years. Charles is being more physical. He can run routes, but he’s running with the ball more physically. He’s also more physical in his blocking and is able to play more plays because of his consistency.”
Suffering a number of injuries at the running back position, the Cardinals expect to get a reinforcement back with return of Dae Williams, who is six months off tearing his ACL last spring.
A big, physical back, Williams was a pleasant surprise in the spring before suffering a major injury. He returned to the practice field two weeks ago, but was finally cleared for contact this week.
“Yeah, it is a surprise to me,” Petrino said on Monday. “I was surprised three weeks ago when he got to start practicing, and then, watching him go through the drills and cut and move and do all the things he can do, it’s pretty amazing.
“Dae’s a big, physical, hard runner that has great hands and great hips, so he can open his hips and make different catches, and did a great job of pass protecting with us. It’ll be fun to see how he does. We’re going to go out and practice a little bit tonight, and then, start our normal week tomorrow, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does and where he’s at with everything.”
After sitting out as a redshirt last season, Williams’ debut was postponed when he went down last March after the first couple weeks of spring drills.
“I’m ready to do whatever they want me to do,” Williams said. “It felt good to be back out there with my teammates. It’s been hard watching them work, and me not being able to work out there with them.”
Not only is Williams anxious to get back on the field, the Cardinals also are ready to erase the disappointing feeling.
by Rocco Gasparro