The Cardinals have lost nine
consecutive games away from home since winning at Memphis in Oct. 2008, and
haven't beaten a ranked team on the road since 2007. That makes the trip to
Corvallis a stern test for a team adjusting to its new coaching staff and
looking to rediscover a winning attitude.
Since the offense has still found it
difficult to put up points early in the season, Strong will rely on his defense
and special teams to help get the Cardinals on the winning track away from home
and pick up what would be his first signature win.
In particular, the special teams has
been surprisingly good this season. Chris Philpott has been perfect on field
goals and deadly on kickoffs, with four touchbacks already in 2010. Victor Anderson has emerged as one of the top kick returners in the country while
running as well as he has since his freshman season. That could help the
Cardinals win the battle for field position, particularly important on the road.
Louisville also is looking for
improvement in consistency. The Cardinals haven't put together 60 minutes of
football all year, struggling in the first half against Kentucky and for
everything but the second quarter on offense against Eastern Kentucky. That kind
of effort isn't going to bring a pretty result if it happens against the
Linebackers Tyon Dixon
and Deon Rogers both made their Cardinals debut against Eastern
Kentucky, becoming the sixth and seventh true freshmen to see the field this
season. Six of those have been defensive players, with wide receiver Jarrett Davis the lone freshman on the offensive side of the ball to play thus far.
With Bilal Powell running
the ball well, the coaching staff has given junior running back Victor
Anderson a chore he hadn't had since his freshman year: Taking back kicks.
So far, so good. He had a 67-yard return against Kentucky, and followed that
with a 59-yard scamper against EKU.
SERIES HISTORY: Louisville
leads Oregon State 1-0 (last meeting, 2005, 63-27 Louisville).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: One key
for the offense against Oregon State is to avoid the dropped passes that have
plagued the receiving corps through the season's first two games. The passing
looks very close to being much improved, but the timing isn't quite there yet
between Adam Froman and his wideouts, and the receivers aren't helping by
letting catchable balls hit the turf. That's been a point of emphasis in
practice that the coaching staff hopes leads to tangible results this weekend.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The
Cardinals' big challenge will be stopping the Rogers brothers. Jacquizz Rogers
is coming off a sophomore season that saw him rush for 1440 yards and 21
touchdowns, while James Rogers leads the team in catches and had 91 receptions a
year ago. The defense struggled mightily on the road last season, allowing more
than 30 points in all but one of its six road games in 2009.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Guys have to
understand it's us against them. You're going to be in a hostile environment, so
how we're going to respond to the crowd is how we're going to keep our team
together." — Louisville coach Charlie Strong told the Louisville
Courier-Journal, on his team's upcoming trip to Oregon State.
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Louisville
at Oregon State, Sept. 18 — The only other time these two teams met was in 2005,
when the two teams combined for 90 points in a 63-27 Cardinals win. It's safe to
bet that the points total for this game will be slightly less, since the Cards
don't look capable of scoring that many points and the defense appears strong
enough not to allow them.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Score
early. The Louisville offense hasn't broken out yet this season, and until Adam
Froman and the receivers can really get the spread offense clicking it will
depend on the ground attack of Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson. But given the
quality of Oregon State's offense, the Cardinals will likely need more than the
23 points it managed against a weaker Eastern Kentucky defense to win this week,
so gaining some confidence with an early touchdown or two is critical.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
DL Rodney Gnat — Gnat was
one of the defenders that Charlie Strong and the coaching staff tried to
light a fire under during the offseason, and he exploded against Eastern
Kentucky with 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. If that's
not a one-time-only effort, he could cause all kinds of problems for the
Oregon State offensive line.
RB Bilal Powell — Powell
has run well for the Cardinals the first two weeks, both grinding out
yardage and breaking out the big gainers. He'll be counted on to do more
this week, as he and Victor Anderson can help control the tempo and keep
Oregon State's offense off the field if it can move the ball on the ground.
LB B.J. Butler — It
hasn't taken the true freshman long to earn playing time. He played in the
opener against Kentucky, and earned the start against EKU when Brandon Heath
was sidelined by finger surgery. The former Georgia commit has a knack for
putting pressure on the quarterback, and the Oregon State offense will need
to know where he is when he sees the field.
LB Brandon Heath missed
the Eastern Kentucky game with an injured finger. He's listed as the starter
this week on the depth chart, so odds are good that he will be back against
WR Doug Beaumont finally
caught his first touchdown pass in the victory over Eastern Kentucky. The
senior has emerged as the most dependable target for Adam Froman, as he's
mostly been able to avoid the drops that have plagued the rest of the