Louisville looks to get its season back on track against Clemson


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Petrino hasn't liked a lot of what he's seen out of his team through two games (Photo by Jason Getz)
Petrino hasn't liked a lot of what he's seen out of his team through two games (Photo by Jason Getz)

This wasn’t the way Louisville’s season was supposed to go.

The Cardinals were popular picks in the preseason to do some damage, both in the ACC and nationally. The team’s chance to do much nationally is done after losses to Auburn and Houston to open the season.

But the Cardinals still have a shot to turn around their season (and contend in the ACC) starting
Thursday when they host Clemson in the conference opener for both teams. The Tigers (2-0) are ranked 11th in The Associated Press poll.

“The guys came back and worked extremely hard to get ready for this game,” Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino said during his news conference Monday night. “I think we have put it all behind us, and we’re moving forward and in the right direction, I think.”

The Cardinals have played three quarterbacks already this season with Lamar Jackson throwing for 268 yards on 26-of-47 completions, but he has thrown three interceptions with just one touchdown. Kyle Bolin is 10-of-18 for 157 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, while Reggie Bonnafon is 8-of-13 for 67 yards.

Petrino didn’t announce Monday who will start Thursday, preferring to meet with his quarterback Tuesday first.

“I think I know who the quarterback is, but we told them they would get their reps in practice, and we’d grade the reps,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to the quarterbacks yet, so I’m not going to tell anyone else before I talk to the quarterbacks and tell them. … We’ve just got to grade the video (Monday) and meet with the quarterbacks (Tuesday).”

The running game also has been inconsistent with Jackson (28 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns) and Brandon Radcliff (27-119, two touchdowns) leading the way. Micky Crum, Ja’Quay Savage and Traveon Samuel each has eight catches to lead the receivers.

And the offense faces a difficult task against a Tigers defense that is off to a strong start in wins over Wofford and Appalachian State.

Clemson is fifth in the conference in scoring defense (10.0 points per game) and sixth in total defense (255.5 yards per game). The Tigers are second against the pass (92.5) and 10th against the run (163.0).

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Petrino said. “We’re playing a real good team in Clemson. “Their defense doesn’t look like it has missed a bit. They’re physical, and their front seven is very, very good. Their linebackers come downhill, and they tackle well. Their corners like to play press man, so that will challenge us there, but we’re looking forward to that.”

The real struggles for Louisville have come on defense, where the Cardinals rank 13th in the ACC in scoring defense (32.5) and 12th in total yardage defense (394.5). They have struggled equally against the pass (11th in ACC, 186.5) and the run (13th in ACC, 208.0).

That defense should be tested by quarterback Deshaun WatsonDeshaun Watson
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#4 6-2, 207
Gainesville, GA

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and Clemson’s attack, which is fifth in the conference in scoring offense (45.0) and total yards (462.5).

“You’ve got a quarterback who has completed 70 percent of his passes to date, and he can run,” Petrino said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us. I think our kids are looking forward to it, and I know our coaches are.”

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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