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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason report: Louisville

By Andrea Adelson
ESPN.com

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

Record: 2-3 (0-0, Big East)

Everybody knew Louisville would field a young squad after losing 25 seniors off last season's bowl team. That inexperience has shown throughout the entire team, and has played a role in the Cardinals' early struggles. So far, Louisville has had 24 players make their first collegiate appearance. Eleven true freshmen have played, and eight have made starts. That includes quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has started the last two games while Will Stein has been out with a shoulder injury. The offensive line has not only been plagued with inexperience, but injuries as well. Center Mario Benavides missed the first three games of the season; Hector Hernandez, Kamran Joyner and John Miller have also missed games. Struggles along the line and with the running backs have meant struggles for the entire offense. Louisville, one of the best rushing teams last season with Bilal Powell, is now one of the worst in the league. The Cardinals have just two rushing touchdowns all season.

Penalties and turnovers have plagued them as well. Sensing a need to make a move to boost his offense, coach Charlie Strong has relieved Mike Sanford of his duties as offensive coordinator and handed the play calling over to Shawn Watson. Sanford remains with the team but in an undefined role. Bridgewater has been OK as a starter -- he gets major credit for leading the Cardinals to a huge win over Kentucky. But they have scored 20 total points in two games since that momentous victory, and teams are forcing Louisville to throw to beat them. Meanwhile, Louisville ranks No. 8 in the Big East in penalties and turnover margin (minus-4), two more reasons why Louisville has had problems so far this season.

Offensive MVP: The offense has been so anemic, there is nobody worthy of MVP. Don't believe me? Look at the stats.

Defensive MVP:LB Dexter Heyman. The Cardinals have gotten some good performances from their defense, but Heyman has stood out. Heyman leads the team with 39 tackles -- including seven for loss. He also has two sacks, one forced fumble and an interception this season.