No. 19 Louisville looks to bounce back against Kent State
By GARY B. GRAVES
Louisville didn't use much of the "24-hour rule" to digest its disappointing loss to Clemson.
The No. 19 Cardinals were eager to put the 47-21 defeat to the second-ranked Tigers behind them and move on to Saturday's non-conference game against Kent State. It's hard to blame them.
Louisville (2-1) hopes to get back on track against the Golden Flashes (1-2), especially on defense. To do that first requires getting past the hangover of a tough loss.
Clemson exploited Louisville's problems on defense when it comes to slowing down opponents, gaining 613 yards and scoring 26 unanswered points on a unit that couldn't get off the field. The Cardinals are allowing nearly 452.7 yards and 36.7 points per game, more than two points higher than the offense (34.3).
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino has stressed the importance of getting those issues resolved.
"We've got a lot of things to work on," the coach said this week. "We've got technique to work on. We've got a lot of coverage to tighten up. We didn't play with a lot of confidence in the secondary the other night. We gave them free access and let them come off the ball and gave them some easy completions.
"So, we've got to tighten up the coverage and challenge them. Make them work harder."
Louisville hopes its focus on communication and execution this week yields improvement against Kent State in the first of consecutive non-league contests. The Cardinals are 37-point favorites but are taking nothing for granted against the Golden Flashes, who lead the series 9-8.
"It's never easy to get over a loss, but some things you just have to let go," tight end Charles Standberry said. "We have a whole season ahead of us, we still got a lot of games to play, there is a lot of ball to be played."
KSU is coming off a 21-0 loss at Marshall and knows the feeling of being thumped by the defending national champions, losing 56-3 at Clemson in the season opener.
The Golden Flashes' primary goal is stopping Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson. The quarterback will try to into more of his normal groove after a rare off game, like most of his teammates.
"I don't think we're looking back," Louisville first-year defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon said. "I think it's still affecting us. Their minds are full and we're talking about what we need to do and how we need to get better."
Other things to watch Saturday when Louisville hosts Kent State:
PATIENCE, LAMAR: Jackson acknowledged after the Clemson loss being too excited at the start, resulting in him missing his first four passes and pressing afterward to find a rhythm. By the time he found it Louisville was down 33-7, making his two fourth-quarter TD passes and 199 yards somewhat meaningless. He had 381 yards of offense and three TDs, but his goal this week is letting the game come to him.
SIDELINED: Golden Flashes fifth-year senior quarterback Nick Holley and junior linebacker Matt Bahr are out with knee injuries. Holley had rushed for 207 yards and a TD and passed for 106 yards with two TDs. Bahr, a converted safety, had nine tackles in the opener against Clemson and is KSU's No. 6 tackler with 13.
THIRD DOWN: Keeping the offense on the field and getting the defense off of it are Louisville's priorities after the Cardinals converted just 5 of 15 chances while allowing Clemson to make 9 of 17 on the critical down.
CORNERSTONES: Kent State cornerback Demetrius Monday and Jamal Parker are coming off strong performances against Marshall. Monday intercepted his second pass in as many games and enters the contest with nine career pickoffs. Jamal Parker meanwhile had a career-best 12 tackles and four pass breakups.
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AP Freelance Writer Steve Bittenbender in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.
Updated September 22, 2017