Louisville hopes for better showing in renovated stadium
By GARY GRAVES
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Work has continued around the clock applying the finishing touches to Louisville's $63 million football stadium renovation to ensure it is ready for when the Cardinals host Indiana State.
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino and the Cardinals also have been working feverishly to rebound in their home opener Saturday after the opening-game shellacking they endured against top-ranked Alabama.
The Cardinals were outgained 519-268, including 222-16 on the ground. They trailed 34-0 before getting on the scoreboard late in the third quarter, then allowed long kickoff and interception returns for scores. Not quite how they expected to start the season.
"We need to focus, concentrate and get better technically, and scheme-wise, not make the mistakes that we made," Petrino said this week.
Louisville aims to regroup against an Indiana State program coming off a 49-0 rout of NCAA Division II Quincy on Aug. 30 that ended a 14-game losing streak dating back to the 2016 season.
The Sycamores rolled up 423 yards in their opener but are aware things will be significantly tougher against a Louisville squad looking to prove last Saturday was an aberration.
"This is the best team that we'll face since I've been here, maybe the best team that Indiana State's ever faced," second-year Sycamores coach Curt Mallory said. "It'll be a heck of a challenge and we're excited about the opportunity.
"But you'll see a team that's very well balanced and very well-coached on all three phases of the game."
Most of the initial attention Saturday night might be on Cardinal Stadium as the upgrade is unveiled.
High-definition video boards sit atop corners in the upper deck of the now-enclosed north end that has increased capacity to nearly 61,000. The addition also features club seating and field-level suites that will allow spectators an up-close look at players as they walk the tunnel - and hopefully celebrate touchdowns that were scarce against the Crimson Tide.
"Can't wait to see myself on that screen in the end zone," said Cardinals tight end Kemari Averett, who scored both TDs in that 51-14 loss.
Other things to watch in Louisville's home opener:
ESTABLISH THE RUN
Indiana State seeks a strong encore after eight rushers combined for 339 yards and all six touchdowns against Quincy. Sophomore Titus McCoy and Ja'Quan Keys each gained at least 80 yards for the Sycamores while combining for three scores. Louisville on the other hand has nowhere to go up after mustering just 16 yards on 26 carries, which must improve if it hopes to establish offensive balance. To that end the Cardinals' depth chart lists six players and Petrino sounds open to using every one. "We're looking for an identity," he said. "We went into the (Alabama) game thinking we had that. They (Alabama) did a good job of shutting it down, using different pressures. ... We've got to find out who our running back really is."
Louisville's challenge to replace nine regulars became tougher after defensive end Jon Greenard sustained a wrist injury against Alabama that Petrino said will sideline him for "a while." Petrino mentioned that it's an opportunity for redshirt sophomores Tabarius Peterson and Derek Dorsey to fill the void and help the Cardinals control the line of scrimmage after getting pushed around by the Tide.
Indiana State returned 13 starters from last year, including seven on defense. Linebackers Jonas Griffith and Katrell Moss, who combined for 208 tackles in 2017, teamed up to make 17 stops in the opener.
Louisville leads the series 6-3-1 and has won six of seven against the Sycamores, most recently 30-10 at home in 2009. The Cardinals are 15-6-1 against Missouri Valley Conference schools.
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Updated September 7, 2018