NCF Nation: Andrell Smith
No. 10 Louisville did not need a furious second-half rally to beat Temple.
The Cardiac Cards did have a fight for about a quarter, but then cruised to the 45-17 win against the Owls on Saturday afternoon. They are off to the best start in school history, at 9-0, and their best start in Big East history at 4-0.
Not surprisingly, this one turned into the Teddy Bridgewater show.
Temple came to play on special teams and offense -- Matt Brown got the scoring going first with a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Montel Harris had 95 yards into the second quarter, and Louisville found itself tied at 17 with 11 minutes to play in the second quarter. Slow starts have become all too familiar for this team.
But Bridgewater took advantage of a shaky pass defense, and Temple was simply helpless to stop the Cardinals, who closed the game on a 28-0 run. Bridgewater had three of those touchdown passes, and ended up throwing for his fourth 300-yard game of the season.
Bridgewater played three quarters and finished 19-of-28 for 324 yards and a career-high five touchdown passes. Andrell Smith had two touchdown catches, and Jeremy Wright had 10 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown. Louisville racked up 507 yards of total offense, as the Temple defense was completely overmatched for a majority of the game. Harris, meanwhile, finished with 125 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Newsome also got into the game late for the Owls, in his first appearance for Temple.
The Owls still have Cincinnati and Syracuse remaining on the schedule, so you have to wonder whether they will win another Big East game after getting off to a 2-0 start in league play.
As for Louisville, no question the Cards are going to be favored next week against Syracuse and then UConn before ending the season at Rutgers. If Bridgewater keeps playing the way he has, Louisville could very well end up undefeated.
Harris was injured during a 7-on-7 passing drill Thursday. Incredibly, Harris went into camp rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee. This is now the fourth knee injury for Harris, who also sat out 2010 with an injury.
"He provides so much energy to the team, and you want everything to work out for him,” Strong said after practice. “And to watch any player go down, it’s just not a good feeling as a coach. They put so much work into it.”
The Cardinals were hoping to lean on Harris and his experience this season. After leading the team in 2011 with 455 yards receiving on 37 catches, coaches felt confident Harris had the potential for an even greater season. Expect Damian Copeland to step in for Harris. Early reports out of camp have said Copeland has performed really well so far during practice.
Louisville has some talent returning at receiver, with talented sophomores Eli Rogers and DeVante Parker coming back, along with Andrell Smith. But losing Harris hurts from a depth and experience standpoint. Now it is time to see who will step up.
The Cardinals (6-5, 4-2) have been able to turn around their season after a 2-4 start -- and humbling losses to FIU and Marshall -- behind solid defense and efficient play on offense. That was on display against the Huskies (4-6, 2-3), who had their fair share of missed opportunities and now have to win out to become bowl eligible. Dropped passes and missed open receivers were the story in this game for UConn.
An untimely penalty also cost the Huskies. After forcing Louisville to punt deep in its own territory, Kendall Reyes was flagged for running into the kicker. Louisville took advantage of the mistake. Teddy Bridgewater threw a beautiful 39-yard pass to Andrell Smith on third down, moving the ball to the UConn 10. Bridgewater ended the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to put Louisville up 21-10. The drive ended up going 95 yards, the longest of season for the Cardinals. Bridgewater added a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter to put the Cardinals up 28-10.
UConn tried to rally and cut the lead to 28-20 after a 37-yard field goal from Dave Teggart with 13 seconds left. The Huskies recovered the onside kick, but the game ended with a defensive score from Malcolm Mitchell.
Louisville's run defense played much better this week than last, holding UConn to under 100 yards rushing. The Huskies did have one big milestone in the game, as Lyle McCombs went over 1,000 yards on the season.
Now Cardinals fans are no doubt calculating the odds of getting the BCS berth. Keep this in mind: Louisville has to win out, and would have an advantage in any head-to-head tiebreaker scenario with Rutgers or West Virginia. Louisville finishes its regular season at USF next Friday.
To make these rankings, I considered returning starters, accolades for returning starters, depth and potential.
2. West Virginia. The Mountaineers have Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and a whole bunch of questions at the position. But with the new offense Dana Holgorsen is bringing in, other receivers have a chance to be more effective. Austin is about as close as you can come to a surefire first-team All-Big East player. Ryan Nehlen had a nice spring and could be the surprise of the season. So could Tyler Urban, a converted tight end. How will Brad Starks do after shoulder surgery? Will Ivan McCartney live up to his potential? There is talent here and great potential if everybody lives up to expectations.
3. Cincinnati. The Bearcats are stocked with talent, but many of these skill players have got to gain experience and fast with Armon Binns, Marcus Barnett, Vidal Hazelton and Ben Guidugli gone. D.J. Woods is expected to be a first-team All-Big East selection. But beyond he and Anthony McClung, you have got young guys -- junior college transfers Kenbrell Thompkins and Damon Julian, redshirt freshman Dyjuan Lewis, freshmen Shaq Washington, Chris Moore, Alex Chisum and Max Morrison. Thompkins showed great promise in the spring.
4. Pittsburgh. The Panthers lose their leading receiver in Jon Baldwin, but the duo of Mike Shanahan and Devin Street could each be 1,000-yard receivers. Behind them, though, there are some questions and inexperience. Junior Cameron Saddler is going to have to step up. Redshirt freshmen Salath Williams, Drew Carswell, junior college transfer Josh Brinson and true freshman Justin Jackson are all young but have a chance to be big contributors. Pitt also is waiting to hear whether UNC transfer Brendon Felder will have his petition for immediate eligibility granted.
5. Syracuse. The Orange have plenty of solid returning receivers in Van Chew, Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon but what this team is really lacking is big-play potential. In five games last season, Syracuse failed to complete a pass that went longer than 30 yards. In fact, Ryan Nassib averaged 6.5 yards per pass attempt. A healthy Jarrod West could help those numbers improve. Dorian Graham has to work on his hands, too.
6. USF. The Bulls lose leading receiver Dontavia Bogan, but they return injured players Sterling Griffin and A.J. Love to the mix, which is going to be huge. Lindsey Lamar and Evan Landi also return, along with Terrence Mitchell, Joel Miller and Faron Hornes. Deonte Welch had a nice spring game and is listed as a backup behind Landi. True freshman Andre Davis has the potential to contribute as well. The Bulls have plenty of depth here but there are still some questions about this group, especially with Griffin and Love coming off injuries.
7. Louisville. The Cardinals lose their top two receivers, and have got to figure out a way to make big plays and stretch the field with a young group. Josh Bellamy appears to be the go-to man headed into 2011, and much is going to be expected of Andrell Smith and Michaelee Harris. Both are coming off injuries and were unable to practice in the spring. True freshmen are most likely going to be relied upon, giving Eli Rogers and DeVante Parker and opportunity to play.
8. Connecticut. A playmaker has got to emerge from this group to help out whoever is going to be playing quarterback. The Huskies lost leading receiver Mike Smith because of academics. Kashif Moore, Ryan Griffin and Isiah Moore return but UConn is going to need some of its redshirt freshmen like Geremy Davis and Tebucky Jones Jr. to step up. The Huskies are not preparing to run the spread, so the potential for a 1,000-yard receiver in this group is low.
Like several other positions for the Cardinals, receiver has been thinned by graduation and injuries. Most days this spring, Dugans is working with only five or six wideouts.
"We've got about half the receiving corps," Louisville's second-year receivers coach said. "Guys have to suck it up, because there's not much rotation going on."
Louisville's leading returning pass-catcher is Josh Bellamy, a senior who is only in his second year with the program after transferring from junior college. Slowed by a concussion in the opener against Kentucky, Bellamy caught 29 passes for 401 yards and five touchdowns last season.
"I had an OK season, but not as good as I wanted," he said. "This year, I feel like I'll have a pretty good one."
Dugans has challenged Bellamy to be a leader this spring and not just with his words. Bellamy is already one of the loudest guys on the team who likes to jaw with the defense during practice. Dugans wants him to lead more by example, and that starts with improving his downfield blocking, which was lacking a year ago.
"He used to get on me every day about that," Bellamy said. "After every game, I would be the topic of every meeting."
The only returning receivers to catch more than one pass last year are Andrell Smith (25 receptions for 377 yards) and Damian Copeland (8 for 113). But both are hurt and not practicing this spring, along with redshirt freshman Michaelee Harris.
That leaves a skeleton crew populated by the likes of sophomores Kai Dominguez and Jarrett Davis, redshirt freshman Stephan Robinson, walk-on junior Scott Radcliff and early enrollee Charles Gaines. Gaines has turned heads with his speed, but he has also gotten a look at cornerback this spring.
"That's up to the head man," Dugans said when asked where Gaines' future lies. "He's showing flashes on both sides of the ball. Hopefully he'll stay on the offensive side of the ball, because we need him."
Two of Louisville's top incoming recruits are receivers Eli Rogers and DeVante Parker, both of whom will get a chance to compete for playing time this August. Veterans will be hard to find, but the Cardinals hope more talent makes up for that. Head coach Charlie Strong said last year's team lacked deep threats who could stretch the field in the passing game.
"Some of the defenses kind of sat up and squatted on us last year," Dugans said. "If we have to work underneath, then that's where yards after the catch comes in, and I've been harping on that this spring."
Dugans has been harping to just a handful of guys. He hopes to have a lot more ears listening to his message by this summer.
1. Jeremy Deering: The Rutgers true freshman has been terrific lately and had 166 rushing yards out of the Wildcat last weekend, the most rushing yards by a Scarlet Knights player since Ray Rice left for the NFL. He's averaging 6.2 yards per carry his last two games.
3. Andrell Smith: Louisville coaches have long liked the potential of the 6-foot-3 sophomore receiver. Smith is beginning to turn into a valuable target in the passing game, with touchdown catches in his last two games.
4. Marcus Sales: The Syracuse receiver came into Saturday's game with just five catches for 39 yards. He equaled his season total for receptions and gained 73 yards against Rutgers, with 20 of those yards coming on the game-winning drive. The Orange had been expecting more of Sales this season, but he finally delivered in a big spot with Alec Lemon hurt.
5. Shawne Alston: Pressed into service with Noel Devine ailing, Alston had 17 carries for 75 yards for West Virginia against Cincinnati.
1. Louisville's special teams: In addition to giving up Lamar's kickoff return score, the Cardinals surrendered excellent field position (and a subsequent field goal) after a 22-yard shanked punt from their own end zone. Special teams cost Louisville the South Florida game far more than the failed fourth-and-1 call in overtime.
2. Pitt's kickoff teams: Speaking of special-teams blunders, Pitt gave up a 100-yard return to UConn's Nick Williams that completely changed the momentum of a game they seemingly had under control. Ray Graham later fumbled a return, setting up a Huskies touchdown. Take those two scores off the board, and the Big East race looks a lot different this week. Pittsburgh's special-teams mistakes also contributed heavily to last year's loss to Cincinnati with the BCS bid on the line.
3. Cincinnati's offense: The high-flying Bearcats attack has been grounded the last two games, scoring only 17 total points in losses to Syracuse and West Virginia. Yes, Zach Collaros was hurt in the Syracuse game, but this team can't beat anybody with that kind of pathetic point production.
4. Doak Walker Award voters: Leaving Donald Brown, the nation's leading rusher at more than 2,000 yards, out of the 2008 finalists group was a disgrace I thought couldn't be topped. But the Doak voters outdid themselves by not including Jordan Todman on their list of 10 semifinalists. Todman is only the nation's No. 2 rusher despite missing a game with an injury. Someone mail the voters of this award a map of Connecticut and tell them the Huskies are in the FBS. Until then, rename it the Joke Walker Award.
5. Airheaded airplane ads: Some doofus hired a plane carrying a banner calling for Oliver Luck to fire Bill Stewart, and the plane circled Milan Puskar Stadium before the Cincinnati game. Not only was that banner a complete waste of money and air space, but the Mountaineers went on to win the game 37-10. If West Virginia wins the Big East, I hope there's an apology banner planned.
The story after one quarter, though, is the Cardinals' defense. South Florida has had four possessions, ending in three punts and one fumble as Darius Ashley sacked then stripped quarterback B.J. Daniels. That led to a touchdown pass from Burke to Andrell Smith for a 7-0 lead.
South Florida had only 26 total yards in the first half, and Daniels had just 2 passing yards. The Bulls had looked better on offense the past two games, but Louisville's defense is playing with a lot of confidence and energy right now. So far, Papa John's Cardinal Stadium remains a house of horrors for USF.
3. UConn's rush to victory: Notice I called Vanderbilt an SEC defense in the last item, and technically that's true. But the Commodores rank 105th in the FBS in rushing defense, allowing 206 yards per game. We don't know yet if Jordan Todman will play after missing last week's game with an arm injury. But clearly there should be some running room for a team that loves to move the ball on the ground.
4. Macho Man Savage?: Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage is dealing with bruised ribs, and if you ever experienced an injury there, you know how painful that can be. It remains to be seen whether Savage, who has gotten off to a rough start while healthy, will play or be able to be effective against Tulane. If he can't go, then true freshman Chas Dodd may be forced into action, or Mohamed Sanu will see a whole lot of Wildcat time. That could make an already scuffling Rutgers offense even more sketchy.
5. Pitt's new-look line: Pittsburgh shook things up this week with its offensive line, moving tackle Lucas Nix inside and installing Jordan Gibbs at right tackle. The Panthers are desperately trying to get the line right and open up room for their running game, which is key to everything they want to do. The reshaped line gets its first challenge against Florida International, which gave Rutgers all it could handle in Week 2. FIU likes to blitz from different angles and has Florida athletes, so this will be a good litmus test for Pitt's makeover.
6. Sunseri in the spotlight: Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri did not look good against Miami, and when reserve Pat Bostick came in during the fourth quarter some fans were ready to make the change permanent. Dave Wannstedt isn't ready to make a switch and still believes in Sunseri. But clearly, the first-year starter needs to get on track, because the Panthers don't have much room for error. And they have a veteran in Bostick waiting in the wings.
7. Bulls on the run or in the air?: South Florida escaped Western Kentucky last week by running the ball almost exclusively. Now the Bulls play a Florida Atlantic team that ranks last in the country in rushing defense. So expect some more of the power I-formation look, and potentially a big day for Demetris Murray and Mo Plancher. At the same time, however, receivers Dontavia Bogan and Sterling Griffin could be back from injury, and both could use some work before next week's Big East opener against Syracuse. So USF needs to air it out a bit, too.
8. New Cardinals catchers: Louisville has suffered all kinds of injuries at the receiver position, the latest knocking out leading pass catcher Doug Beaumont. The Cardinals need to find people to make plays in the passing game this week at Arkansas State, and they could look to junior college transfer Josh Bellamy, sophomore Andrell Smith or freshmen Kai Dominguez and Jarrett Davis. None have much experience, and Louisville will likely need to get plays out of them against a Red Wolves team that's averaging 28 points per game.
Strong did not give many details on Beaumont's injury, which occurred during a 35-28 loss at Oregon State on Sept. 18. Beaumont had nine catches for 121 yards that game. For the season, he has 16 receptions for 244 yards and a touchdown; no other receiver on the Cardinals roster has more than five catches.
Louisville plays at Arkansas State this Saturday.
Without Beaumont, the Cardinals will have to rely more on Josh Bellamy, Andrell Smith and tight end Cameron Graham.
"We have enough guys," Strong said. "When guys get their opportunity, they have to do their job, and guys are going to have their opportunities now."
Beaumont is one of the most respected players among the Cardinals, and you hope he doesn't have to miss too much more of what was turning into a very strong senior season.
- This was my third Big East practice but the first one with full contact. It was good to finally see some hitting and tackling. Although there wasn't nearly enough of that from the defense. It was a bad, bad day for that side of the ball. But don't take my word for it."It was definitely a rough day," defensive lineman Greg Scruggs said. "We've got to get tougher, mentally and physically. We've got to stay disciplined when we get tired. If we don't, then what you saw today will happen. The defense will get run through, the offense will score 50 points and that will be the ball game."The problems for the defense started early and never stopped. The team went through a drill in which running backs were matched up with linebackers in an open-space tackling test. Not a single defender made a stop the entire drill.
"Can't one guy tackle a running back?" head coach Charlie Strong barked in exasperation.
Fed up, Strong stopped the drill and made the linebackers do pushups. Receivers were going against defensive backs a few yards away in the same drill and they weren't having any success either. The defense got plowed during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work as well.
Strong definitely isn't in Gainesville any more. The defense needs a ton of work and lacks bodies on the line and in the defensive backfield. A lot of young players are going to have to play and grow up in a hurry.
- Strong, not surprisingly, runs an intense practice. He and his assistants get after players when they mess up, and there were many, uh, teaching moments tonight. Strong is not afraid to run after a guy and get in his face to make his point, and most of his staff is just as intense. It's definitely a change from Steve Kragthorpe, who was a little more laid back in practice.
- It may just be a function of the defense, but offensively the Cardinals looked pretty solid. Justin Burke took the majority of the first-team reps as he and Adam Froman continue to split them at quarterback. Will Stein was on crutches and wearing a walking boot and is probably done for the spring, so it's a two-man race. I continue to believe the starter will ultimately be Froman, if not Dominique Brown. But that's just my opinion.
- The Louisville running backs are very good. You know about Victor Anderson, Bilal Powell and Darius Ashley. I was mightily impressed with redshirt freshman Jeremy Wright, who made an awful lot of plays.
- The receiving group doesn't seem to have many deep threats, but Doug Beaumont caught just about everything thrown his way. Andrell Smith, a 6-4 sophomore, really needs to come on this year. And I keep waiting for Troy Pascley to have a big year.
- Tight end Cameron Graham hauled in a few nice catches. He has a lot of ability and just needs to be more consistent.
- I won't give away plays and formations, but suffice it to say we saw evidence of the Florida spread. Look for this team to run some two-back sets with some option thrown in. Works better with Tim Tebow, of course, but Froman ended the practice with a 65-yard touchdown run.
- A couple of guys who caught my eye in an otherwise forgettable day for the defense: Malcom Mitchell made a tremendous spin move off the edge during line vs. line drills. Shenard Holton put a big hit on Smith to break up a passing play.
- Notably missing from practice were defensive linemen Rock Keys and Joe Townsend and quarterback Luke Woodley, a midyear enrollee. Woodley went home, though the team hopes he'll return for the fall.
Louisville will begin spring practice on Sunday, the first school in the Big East to get back on the field. It will be an important time for the Cardinals, who are trying to fill several holes after a second straight season that ended without a bowl game. I caught up this week with head coach Steve Kragthorpe for the latest installment of our spring Big East Q&A series.
Is spring time an exciting time for the coaching staff?
|AP Photo/Mel Evans|
|Steve Kragthorpe will take on offensive coordinator duties this season.|
Steve Kragthorpe: To me, spring ball is always one of the fun parts of our job, in terms of taking a new group of guys and molding them together, seeing how all the pieces start to fit together. We've got a lot of guys who've maybe had no roles at all that are going to jump into roles and some guys who've had minor roles who are now going to jump up into major roles. And the fun part about spring practice is there's always a surprise or two, a guy you weren't quite sure was ready to play who jumps up and says, "Hey, I'm ready to take one of these spots."
How do you see the quarterback competition shaping up, and how will you divvy up the spring reps there?
SK: We'll divide them up pretty much equally for the major part of the spring and start to see guys separate from each other. And as guys start to separate, we'll give them a few more repetitions. But my goal is not to name a starting quarterback by the end of spring practice. We will do that about 10 days before the first game. But I'm looking for guys to be consistent, I'm looking for guys that move the chains, I'm looking for guys to lead the other 10 guys on that field and I'm looking for guys who, over a continuum of time, can be a consistent performer.
You have to shape your offense around the talents of the quarterback, obviously. So how do you, as your own offensive coordinator, do that now if you don't yet know who will be your starter?
SK: We're going to install concepts and make sure we do a good job of establishing an identity on offense, establishing a way of playing the position of quarterback and a way of going about playing offense. And then from there we'll wrinkle, based upon what guys do well, based upon what guys are stepping up ... For us, we want to make sure we're very conceptual on offense, we're very concise in terms of our teaching and we establish a system. And from that system we'll wrinkle based on the guys who need the ball in their hands.