Sports

Cards need 'D' against Middle this time

LOUISVILLE — Even a year later, the numbers are still enough to give Louisville Coach Steve Kragthorpe a headache.

Sure, Louisville beat Middle Tennessee last year. Yet the 58-42 victory doesn't resonate because of the school-record 275 rushing yards by Anthony Allen or Brian Brohm's 401 yards passing and five scores.

Instead, it's remembered for what the Cardinals didn't do: namely stop the Blue Raiders. Louisville gave up 555 yards last year, and only a couple of late lapses by the Blue Raiders allowed the Cardinals to escape.

"That game was crazy," defensive end Earl Heyman said. "They ran up and down the field last year."

Looking back, even Middle Tennessee Coach Rick Stockstill can hardly believe it.

"I don't think any of us thought last year's game would be the type of offensive show it turned out to be," Stockstill said. "I have never been part of a game like that."

The Cardinals (3-2) hope this year's rematch with the struggling but dangerous Blue Raiders (2-4) is a bit more tame. While Louisville's defense is much improved, last week's 35-28 win over Memphis was the team's worst defensive performance of the year.

Louisville gave up 481 yards against the Tigers and had trouble getting off the field, allowing Memphis to run 85 plays. Only three game-changing touchdowns — two on special teams, one on defense — allowed Louisville to escape.

"We were on the field too long and gave up almost 500 yards," Kragthorpe said. "I didn't think we tackled as well as we had in the first four games, so that's something we've got to make sure we get shored up."

The Blue Raiders have already beaten one opponent from a Bowl Championship Series conference this year, stunning Maryland 24-14. Middle Tennessee nearly followed it up, falling 1 yard short in the loss to Kentucky.

Yet the Blue Raiders have failed to capitalize on their success. They've lost two of their last three games and have struggled to get any momentum going despite the steady play of quarterback Joe Craddock.

Stockstill began experimenting in a loss to Florida International last week, bringing in Dwight Dasher at QB for his running ability. Dasher performed well enough that Stockstill said he could see some playing time Saturday.

Louisville had trouble against a mobile quarterback last week, as Memphis' Arkelon Hall threw for two touchdowns, threw for another and caught one as well.

Of course, there is one way to slow down Craddock, Dasher and the Blue Raiders' offense: Keep it off the field. Kragthorpe said some of Memphis' success last week came because Louisville's offense had trouble sustaining drives.

"You've got to be able to snap it more than 55 times to have the kind of total offense you want," Kragthorpe said.

The game is Louisville's last non-conference matchup before six straight games against Big East opponents.

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