Saturday, September 27, 2003

Louisville's start more than luck to Petrino

By Chris Duncan
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Louisville coach Bobby Petrino has made a habit of knocking on the round wooden table he sits at during his weekly news conferences.

So far, it's brought nothing but good luck to the Cardinals (3-0), who can match their best start since 1993 with a victory over Temple (0-3) on Saturday.

Luck hasn't been an ally to the Owls this season. They've lost their last two games in overtime, the first to Division I-AA Villanova. Temple had a chance to win that game, but senior kicker Jared Davis missed a 47-yard field goal in the extra period.

Last week, the Owls lost 30-24 to Cincinnati in three overtimes. They blew a 24-10 fourth-quarter lead before Davis missed three potentially game-winning field goals in OT.

Temple has missed nine of 13 field-goal attempts this season.

"They've had some problems kicking field goals, so hopefully that will continue for them," Petrino said.

Owls' coach Bobby Wallace said he'll replace Davis with sophomore Roger Price in Saturday's game.

The Owls are also last in the nation in net punting (24.38 yards per punt), and Wallace will bench senior punter Garvin Ringwelski and use sophomore Mike McLaughlin against Louisville.

"Our kickers look like All-Americans in pregame warmups and at practice," Wallace said. "But we get in the games, and they're just not getting it done under the lights. It's kind of frustrating."

The Cardinals have had no such problems. Senior Nate Smith is 4-for-4 on field goals and 14-of-14 on extra-point kicks, and freshman punter Brent Moody has averaged 42 yards on six punts, dropping three inside the 20-yard line, since replacing injured senior Wade Tydlacka.

Louisville's offense has operated just as smoothly.

Junior quarterback Stefan LeFors has thrown six touchdown passes to five different receivers and ranks seventh in the nation in pass efficiency. Nine different players caught passes in last week's 42-14 win over UTEP.

"A lot of times when you put a new offense in, you tell the quarterbacks, 'Don't worry about who the receivers are. Just read it and take what they give you.' But that doesn't happen all the time," Petrino said.

The Cardinals rank 19th in the nation in scoring offense (37.3 points per game) and 27th in total offense (436 yards per game).

The offense's diversity concerns Wallace, whose team is giving up 389 yards per game.

"We've got to just play our defense and realize that everywhere around the field, there are people who can challenge us," Wallace said. "They've got great players on offense and the quarterback is doing a great job of getting the ball to all of them."

Petrino sees a defensive challenge of his own. Three Temple receivers - Zamir Cobb, Phil Goodman and Terrence Stubbs - went over 100 yards receiving against the Bearcats. Quarterback Mike McGann went 26-for-46 for 338 yards in the game.

"Temple looks good on film," Petrino said. "They're a much faster team than the one we just played. They run a lot of the spread passing game, where the quarterback is a threat."

Petrino said the Cardinals need to generate a more effective pass rush. They've tallied six sacks in their first three games, but Petrino isn't satisfied.

"We've had some really good blitzing schemes and guys coming free, but we haven't quite landed them yet," he said.

The Temple game is Louisville's last tuneup before its Conference USA opener at South Florida on Oct. 4. It's also the Cardinals' last nonconference game of the season, but the players say they have no reason to look past the winless Owls.

"We're not underestimating them. They look like a good team from what we've seen on film," said Louisville linebacker Robert McCune, the team's leading tackler with 31.

"They're definitely not as bad as their record appears," said senior linebacker Rod Day.

Temple at Louisville

Site: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Ky.

Kickoff: 3 p.m. EDT, Saturday, Sept. 27.

Records: Temple (0-3), Louisville (3-0).

Series: Temple leads 3-0.

Last Meeting: Temple 24, Louisville 3, Nov. 12, 1983, in Philadelphia.

Coaches: Bobby Wallace (16-43, seventh season; 98-79-1, 17th season overall), Temple; Bobby Petrino (3-0, first season; 3-0, first season overall), Louisville.

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