Louisville puts fans on red alert

By Darrell Laurant  |   Friday, August 29, 2008  |  Comments( 0 )

Louisville Cardinals
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The biggest question entering Sunday's University of Louisville-University of Kentucky football game at Louisville's Papa John Stadium at 3:30 is this: Has the Louisville defense learned English?

No, this is not a unit made up of immigrants. But after the Cardinals' defense committed a season's worth of Cardinal sins (40.8 points per game allowed, nullifying 37 points a week from the offense), Ron English was brought in from Michigan as the new D-coordinator. Whatever he did (or didn't do) to instill pride and competence in this unit will be evident by the end of the day.

Fortunately for the eight running Cardinal defenders, Kentucky star quarterback Andre Woodson is gone -- and his heir apparent, Curtis Pulley, was kicked off the Wildcat squad by coach Rich Brooks in July. That leaves Mike Hartline, who has thrown exactly six passes in his UK career.

For that matter, Louisville's Hunter Cantwell only launched 14 in 2007 -- the Cardinals didn't have anything in their playbook that allowed Cantwell to pass from the bench. Still, the senior from Paducah has filled in admirably for Brohm at various times during his career and is considered an early NFL draft choice by Mel Kiper Jr.

The Cardinals should also have one of the top offensive lines in the Big East, anchored by center Eric Wood and tackle George Bussey, both All-America candidates. And Bilal Powell came on strong at running back late in a 5-6 season, rushing for 91 yards against Rutgers in the second-to-last game.

Defensively, UL does return eight starters, including a couple of Heymans (senior tackle Earl led in sacks with four in 2007, freshman Dexter will be starting at linebacker). All four members of the secondary who started last season return, with Woodny Turenne and Bobby Buchanan highly regarded.

Head coach Steve Kragthorpe speaks well of his team's growth in preseason practice, but adds: "A lot of guys can hit it down the middle on the driving range."

The biggest offensive question mark for UL is at receiver -- the departed Harry Douglas, Mario Urrutia and Gary Barnidge left Cantwell with new targets to break in. Lone veteran Trent Guy, shot in the back outside a Louisville club, will suit up for Sunday's game, but odds are he won't play. Neither will efficient 2007 receiver Scott Long, who broke his foot recently.

For the third time in recent years, the Cardinals are trying to color the outcome. After winning a couple of "Black Out" games -- 44-34 over West Virginia and 41-38 over Rutgers -- the coaches are urging fans to come dressed in red on Sunday.

Last season, red (as in bleeding) would have been an appropriate color for the defense.
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