University of Louisville football head coach Bobby Petrino has been happy with the offensive production this season, but he is even more ecstatic that it’s not solely coming from a concentrated contingent.
Heading into the fifth game of the season, the Cardinals have seen many players contribute to the success of the offense – with nine different players scoring touchdowns and five players having recorded more than 100 yards receiving.
“Offensively, we got the ball in a lot of different guys’ hands this season,” Petrino said. “I think that’s one of the things that really shows up in our offense more this year than in the past few years is our ability to throw the ball to our running backs and get more people involved in the offense. (Senior running back) Malik (Williams) gets catches, (senior running back) Reggie (Bonnafon) gets catches, Colin (Wilson) comes in and get catches, and it also shows the patience at quarterback to check the ball down. So, that’s been good to see.”
The Cardinals, who have a pair of nonconference games to close September, have gone back to work and added some emphasis in practice to get ready for the key Atlantic Coast Conference stretch that begins next Thursday at NC State.
“The practice really has to help us: how hard we’re practicing, how physical we’re practicing, our timing,” Petrino said. “We have to have a really good week of practice this week. With the short week next week to play on Thursday night, I think it’s really important that this is a great week of practice. I thought last week was really beneficial to us in the practice because it was also very, very hot.”
The focus in a Petrino offense relies heavily on the running game. If the Cardinals aren’t running the football well, the results aren’t favorable, evident in the loss to Clemson, where they ran for a season-low 116 yards.
“We just have to produce when we get the ball,” running backs coach Kolby Smith said. “When we call the running plays, the running backs have to break tackles, convert for first downs, and get the ball in the end zone.”
One player who can help the running game and has benefited from the extra practice time has been Colin Wilson. A former four-star recruit, Wilson arrived at Louisville in August and is finally starting to round into playing shape. He appeared in the backfield for the first time last Saturday versus Kent State and prospered, rushing for 33 yards, including a 21-yarder late in the game.
“Colin Wilson is a guy who was not here all summer,” Petrino said. “He is very talented and is going to be a really good player. He’s not in the best shape right now and I think we saw that out there in the game the other day, but he can really play. I’ve been excited about how well he’s picked things up and how he has learned quick.”
The Green Cove Springs, Fla., native, Wilson saw his first action on special teams versus Clemson.
“It felt great to get out there and run the ball,” Wilson said, referring to the Kent State contest. “Everybody back home was excited for me and proud of me. It was fun to get out there and have an opportunity to run the football.”
Coming in late was a setback to his development, but Wilson also suffered a hand injury the first week of camp, which really impeded him from getting on the field right away.
“The injury hurt my development a little bit,” Wilson said. “It took me a couple of weeks to get into shape, but I feel like I’m getting there and ready to help out in the backfield.”
The Cardinals will look for Wilson and the rest of the offense to continue the fast start on Saturday when they host the Racers at 3:30 p.m.