Archive for September, 2011

September 29, 2011

Benavides Set To Make Return Versus Marshall

Mario Benavides

University of Louisville center Mario Benavides has had a long restless summer, but is on the verge of putting it all behind him, and getting back on the field.

Getting ready for his third season as a starter for the Cardinals, Benavides suffered a mysterious injury after the first couple weeks of camp, causing him to miss the most significant amount of time he has missed throughout his career.

At some point in August, Benavides left practice one day feeling normal, but after a restless night of sleep, he woke up with pain in his foot, which has caused him to the first three games. It’s something that doesn’t sit well with the product of Los Fresnos,  Texas. 

Benavides entered the 2011 campaign having started 24 of 25 contests since taking over as the full-time center in 2009. He missed the Arkansas State game last year to stop his streak of consecutive starts.

After sitting out the last 3-4 weeks of camp and the first three games, Benavides is back at practice this week and is aching to get back to anchoring the offensive line. 

“I feel like I’m going to play,” said Benavides. “If there’s no major set back, I don’t see why I won’t play.”

Even with Benavides in the lineup, the Cardinals were going to break in an entirely new offensive line as four senior starters graduated. 

However, with Benavides out, the Cardinals had a completely new starting five, anchored by two freshmen. The group had only one career start between them. Now, three games into the season, the unit looks like they are jelling, but might have to make room for their leader.

“The main thing is getting into a rhythm,” Benavides said. “Playing offensive line is the most unnatural human position you can play, just the whole technique of it.  So I have to get back in the rhythm get used to being in that football position. I had a rough going the last couple months. They wanted me back quickly so I tried to hurry back. Physically, it doesn’t hurt, but I don’t know where my conditioning is.” 

Benavides was on the sidelines for the 24-17 win over Kentucky and saw how the young offensive line opened up holes as the Cardinals recorded 181 yards on the ground. Benavides wants to come right in and keep that going.

“I had one guy yell at me at the UK game that they don’t need me, said Benavides.  “He was right, they don’t need me. We are a team. I’m really proud of what those guys have done the last three games. I don’t want to make excuses, but they are young and that was a problem at first. I just don’t want to come in and mess it up.”

Benavides, a two-year starter, might have a new quarterback in the lineup as both Will Stein and Teddy Bridgewater are preparing. Whoever, is behind him, Benavides will be ready to play.

“No, not all,” said Benavides when asked if there was going to be any difference between the two quarterbacks. “Teddy is cool. Both of those guys are cool. I’ve never been around two quarterbacks who have so much confidence. Teddy is mature beyond his years and Will has been that guy since his freshman year. I’m just going to block my butt off for whoever is back there.”


September 27, 2011

Cardinals in the NFL – Week 3

Here we are Louisville fans, the third edition of Cardinals in the NFL from ‘Inside the Huddle.’ Twelve Louisville letterwinners saw time on the gridiron in week three. Below is a breakdown of each player and their statistics:

David Akers (San Francisco, Placekicker) – Akers was involved in each of the 49ers’ three scoring plays, registering two field goals and connecting on an extra point in the 13-8 victory over Cincinnati. This season, he is 7-for-7 on field goal attempts as well as 7-for-7 in extra points.

Brock Bolen (Jacksonville, Fullback) – Bolen saw time on special teams in the Jaguars’ 16-10 loss to Carolina. He recorded a tackle on a punt return in the fourth quarter.

Deion Branch (New England, Wide Receiver) – Branch earned the starting nod at wide receiver in the Patriots’ 34-31 loss to the Bills.

Michael Bush (Oakland, Running Back) – Despite entering the game as a substitution, Bush made the most of his time in a 34-24 victory over the Jets. Bush had two receptions for 35 yards, including a 28-yard long, plus eight carries for 22 yards, with a one-yard touchdown rush in the fourth quarter.

Harry Douglas (Atlanta, Wide Receiver) – Douglas saw action in Atlanta’s 16-13 loss to Tampa Bay. He made five catches for 35 yards, with a long of 16 yards.

William Gay (Pittsburgh, Cornerback) – In a 23-20 victory over Indianapolis, Gay earned the start at left cornerback and made five solo tackles.

Brandon Johnson (Cincinnati, Linebacker) – Johnson was inserted as a substitute in the 13-8 loss to San Francisco.

Chris Johnson (Oakland, Cornerback) – Johnson earned the start at cornerback in a 34-24 victory over the Jets.

Amobi Okoye (Chicago, Defensive Tackle) – Okoye saw playing time in the 27-17 loss to Green Bay. He recorded two tackles in the contest.

Johnny Patrick (New Orleans, Defensive Back) – Patrick saw playing time as a substitute in the 40-33 shootout over Houston.

Kerry Rhodes (Arizona, Safety) – Rhodes, who earned the start at free safety in a 13-10 loss to Seattle, made three tackles (two assisted).

Eric Wood (Buffalo, Center) – Wood was given the starting nod at center in an electric 34-31 victory over New England.

September 27, 2011

Scruggs Ready to Move On After Kentucky Win

When University of Louisville senior defensive end Greg Scruggs saw the clock hit 0:00 on Sept. 17 and realized the Cardinals were on the winning end of a 24-17 score, he thought there wasn’t anyone who could keep him quiet. He was going to talk and talk, and who could blame him?

He had just helped Louisville snap its four-game losing streak to Kentucky, and he wanted to enjoy the win as much as he could since he was 0-3 against the Wildcats.

“I was going to talk so much garbage,” said Scruggs. “I wanted to enjoy it since I had never experienced a win over Kentucky. However, I really didn’t talk that much. I was kind of numb because we have never beaten UK since I arrived on campus.”

However, moving on from Louisville’s first win over Kentucky since 2006 isn’t an easy thing for Scruggs and the Cardinals, who play host to Marshall (1-3) on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m.

“Anybody I talk to is talking to me about the Kentucky game,” said the senior defensive end, who recorded a pair of sacks in the win. “For the first 24 hours, I obviously celebrated, but after the first 24 hours, it’s time to get back to work. I’m glad we had it [the bye week] to not ride that emotional high and keep hearing the pats on the back about it. It feels great to know what we accomplished, but we have got a long season ahead of us. We still have games to play, so the open date was good for us.”

With the home game this weekend, the Cardinals are hoping for a hero’s welcome from the Cardinal faithful.

“I expect the fans to come out in full force as they have been,” said Scruggs. “The first game was on a Thursday night and the second game was a Friday night, so people have things to do and I understand that. The world doesn’t stop for football. It’s a Saturday afternoon, so hopefully everyone will come out and support us and bring their family out to enjoy the show. We bust our tails every week to come out here and put on a show for the fans, so hopefully they’ll come and appreciate it and enjoy that.”

The Cardinals are looking for their first 3-1 start since the 2006 Orange Bowl season, and the play of the defense has been the key. Just like last season, the defense is playing at a high level. The Cardinals recorded 14 tackles for loss in the win over the Wildcats. Louisville is ranked second nationally in tackles for loss and are ranked 21st in total defense. The Cardinals are 11th in the country against the run.

“We are just playing defense the way we know how,” said Scruggs. “If you could see every practice and the intensity about getting to the ball, and the intensity we have about tackling and applying pressure, we are just playing defense how we know. As long as we do that, we will be a force to be reckoned with. When we don’t do that, for example, FIU, you can see what happens, so nothing is guaranteed to us. We put ourselves in a position to go be successful by working hard every day in practice, and we just have to go out and execute. I think in the first and third game we did that.”

The Cardinals’ defense is playing with a ton of confidence and swagger, and the emergence of Scruggs is one of the keys. He knows that if he continues to work hard, good things will happen for him and the rest of the Cardinals, who are slated to start BIG EAST Conference play when the Cardinals travel to Cincinnati to face the Bearcats in Scruggs’ hometown on Oct. 15.

September 23, 2011

Players Take Over “Strong Side”

The schedule for the University of Louisville football team is unique this week with the Cardinals having some time off following their 24-17 win over Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium.

The Cardinals return to action on Saturday, Oct. 1 versus Marshall at 3:30 p.m. at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. It’s the first meeting between these two schools since 2002.

With the players having Friday and Saturday off from practice, the coaching staff hit the road recruiting to get a jump on its 2012 recruitig class, including head coach Charlie Strong.

As Strong hit the road to bolster the Cardinals football program, seniors Josh Chichester and Dexter Heyman replaced the head coach on “The Strong Side,” the coach’s weekly television show.

Hosted by Paul Rogers, the players stood in for their coach rather well, taking over the first two segments of the show.

“I really enjoyed doing that show,” said Chichester, who was one of the seniors who were able to defeat Kentucky for the first time in their careers. “It was a lot easier than doing the radio show where we had to answer questions from the crowd. It was fun to be on an actual television set with all the cameras.”

“The Strong Side” is usually done live, but with the off week, the Cardinals taped the show for air on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

“That was a neat experience,” said Heyman, who was named the Howard Schnellenberger MVP in the win over Kentucky. “I enjoy doing different television shows and interviews that we normally do during the week. It’s great experience to be in front of the camera.”

September 20, 2011

Cardinals in the NFL – Week 2

Because we received so much positive feedback on the first go-around, ‘Inside the Huddle’ will continue updating the dedicated Louisville fans on the Cardinals in the NFL. In week two, 13 Louisville letterwinners saw time on the gridiron. Below is a breakdown of each player and their statistics:

David Akers (San Francisco, Placekicker) – Akers registered six points in San Francisco’s 24-17 loss to Dallas. In the game, Akers booted a 55-yard field goal and was 3-of-3 in extra point attempts.

Brock Bolen (Jacksonville, Fullback) – Bolen saw limited action in the Jaguars’ 32-3 loss to the Jets, rushing for four yards on one carry.

Deion Branch (New England, Wide Receiver) – Branch had a monstrous game in the Patriots’ 35-21 victory over San Diego. He finished the game with eight catches for 129 yards (16.1 average), with a long of 33 yards.

Michael Bush (Oakland, Running Back) – Bush had the second-most rushing attempts on Oakland, as he was handed the ball four times and finished with 23 yards. While he had a long of 23, it was a one-yard rush that he scored on in the 38-35 loss to Buffalo.

Harry Douglas (Atlanta, Wide Receiver) – Douglas saw in Atlanta’s 35-31 win over Philadelphia. He made two catches for 19 yards, with a long of 15.

William Gay (Pittsburgh, Cornerback) – In a 24-0 victory over Seattle, Gay recorded three solo tackles and had one pass defensed.

Brandon Johnson (Cincinnati, Linebacker) – Johnson was inserted as a substitute in the Bengals’ 24-22 loss to Denver.

Chris Johnson (Oakland, Cornerback) – Johnson earned the start at right cornerback, and he finished the game with four total tackles and two passes defensed in a 38-35 loss to Buffalo.

Amobi Okoye (Chicago, Defensive Tackle) – Okoye was inserted as a substitution at defensive tackle in the Bears’ 30-13 loss to New Orleans. Okoye registered two tackles in the contest.

Johnny Patrick (New Orleans, Defensive Back) – Patrick was inserted as a substitute in the Saints’ 30-13 win over Chicago.

Kerry Rhodes (Arizona, Safety) – Rhodes earned the start at free safety in the Cardinals’ 22-21 loss to Washington. Rhodes led all players with seven tackles (six solo), while recording a solo sack for a loss of eight yards and one pass defensed.

Jason Spitz (Jacksonville, Guard) – Spitz was inserted as a substitute in the Jaguars’ 32-3 loss to the Jets.

Eric Wood (Buffalo, Center) – Wood earned the start at center in a 38-35 victory over Oakland.

September 14, 2011

Chance to Change History

By Rocco Gasparro for Inside the Huddle

After dominating Kentucky from 2003-06, the Cardinals are frustrated. Having lost four in a row to the Wildcats, the senior class has a chance to accomplish something it has yet to do since signing to play at Louisville – beat Kentucky.

The seniors are 0-3 against Kentucky and have an enormous opportunity to change the tide on Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPU in Lexington.

Louisville has dropped its last two games at Commonwealth Stadium, but the margin of victory has been just 10 points. Louisville lost in 2007, when Stevie Johnson scored on a long pass play in the final seconds. The Cardinals were in control of the game in 2009, leading 27-24 five minutes before a crucial turnover on a punt gave the Wildcats the football, which led to the winning score.

Head coach Charlie Strong is 0-1 versus Kentucky after a 23-16 loss at home in his first game as coach of the Cardinals. He hasn’t been around the rivalry much, but fired the first shot – not at the opponent, however – on Monday when he said he didn’t think his team could beat the Wildcats.

“We’re going to go face a team now that is a very good football team,” said Strong. “You look at Kentucky, and I don’t know if we can beat Kentucky right now. Kentucky returns 10 starters on defense. Their whole offensive line is back and that is the nucleus of their football team right now.

“They’ve beaten us four straight years. They’ve been to five straight bowl games. We’ve been to one bowl game in four years. They have out-recruited us. We still have a ways to go. We have to go catch that program because, within this state right now, Kentucky leads the series. We have a long ways to go. We have to continue to rebuild this program and get this program headed back in the right direction.”

Defensive end Greg Scruggs is one player who has yet to experience the joy of hoisting the Governor’s Cup following a win over Kentucky and he has heard his head coach’s comments.

“Proof is in the pudding,” said Scruggs. “We haven’t beaten them in four years. They’ve obviously gotten off to a good start in their season. We’ve had some bumps in the road. My coach calls it how he sees it. He’s been honest since he’s gotten here. He hasn’t changed that approach to the way he coaches and the way he talks to us. That’s how he honestly he feels, so you can call it motivation. It gives you a little bit more to work for.”

Despite not being from the state, Scruggs understands the importance of the rivalry to the program and the fans.

“It means a lot, the instate rivalry,” said Scruggs. “The one thing you don’t want to do is give too much emotion to it because then your emotions start to take over, then you won’t pay attention to the details and the things you need to work on as far as the scheme and the technique. It is a big deal obviously and it is a big game with the rivalry and the history that it has. You want to do your best not to make it more than what it is.”

The Cardinals are coming off a 24-17 loss at home to FIU last Friday night. It was a game the Cardinals felt they should’ve won, out-gaining the Panthers 446-293 and 24 first downs to nine. However, the Cardinals gave up three big plays, including an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The offense drove the football up and down the field, but sputtered in the red-zone and left points on the field.

Junior quarterback Will Stein, who completed 30-of-49 passes for a career-high 349 yards, likes the direction of the offense despite its inability to cross the goal-line in certain situations.

“I like our playmakers,” said Stein. “I think our guys are really going out there and making plays. I see DeVante (Parker) out there as a true freshman who has two touchdowns already. Michaelee (Harris) had a great game. Victor (Anderson) and Jeremy (Wright) are running hard. I think we got guys out there who want to make plays and are making plays. We just have to get better and finishing and scoring more points. You can’t go out there and have 450 yards of offense and score 17 points and win a game. It just doesn’t work like that. As the leader of the offense, I have to be a better manager and get us in the end zone more. A lot of that stuff I can control, so I need to do a better job of that this week.”

The Cardinals will need all their playmakers and more at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday. The Wildcats have the momentum after winning their first two games, but the Cardinals will be ready to see if they can prove their head coach wrong and stop the streak.

September 13, 2011

Cardinals in the NFL – Week 1

Kerry Rhodes had seven tackles, including a sack, in a 28-21 victory over Carolina.

While ‘Inside the Huddle’ wants to continue devoting as much attention possible to the current Cardinals, we also want to make sure those who have moved on to the professional ranks are not forgotten. In week one of the NFL, 13 Louisville letterwinners saw time on the gridiron. Below is a breakdown of each player and their statistics:

David Akers (San Francisco, Placekicker) – Akers tallied 15 points in helping the 49ers post a 33-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Akers connected on four field goals – a long of 30 yards – and tallied three extra points.

Deion Branch (New England, Wide Receiver) – Branch earned the start in a 38-24 victory over Miami. He finished the game with seven catches for 93 yards.

Michael Bush (Oakland, Running Back) – Bush was utilized as a substitution in a 23-20 victory over Denver. He had nine carries for 30 yards.

Harry Douglas (Atlanta, Wide Receiver) – Douglas had two catches for a total of 10 yards in the 30-12 loss to Chicago.

Elvis Dumervil (Denver, Defensive End) – Dumervil earned the start at right defensive end in a 23-20 loss to Oakland.

William Gay (Pittsburgh, Cornerback) – Gay registered a solo tackle in a 35-7 loss to Baltimore.

Breno Giacomini (Seattle, Offensive Tackle) – Giacomini earned the start at right tackle in a 33-17 losing effort to San Francisco.

Brandon Johnson (Cincinnati, Linebacker) – Johnson was inserted as a substitution in the Bengals’ 27-17 victory over Cleveland.

Chris Johnson (Oakland, Cornerback) – Johnson opened the year on a phenomenal note in a 23-20 victory over Denver. Johnson, who earned the start at cornerback, recorded five solo tackles, while also registering a pass defensed and a forced fumble.

Amobi Okoye (Chicago, Defensive Tackle) – Okoye recorded a nine-yard solo sack in the 30-12 victory over Atlanta.

Kerry Rhodes (Arizona, Safety) – Earning the starting nod at safety, Rhodes registered seven tackles (five solo, two assisted) in a 28-21 victory over Carolina. One of Rhodes’ solo stop was a six-yard sack.

Jason Spitz (Jacksonville, Guard) – Spitz came into the game as a substitution in Jacksonville’s 16-14 victory over Tennessee.

Eric Wood (Buffalo, Center) – Wood was the Bills’ starting center in a 41-7 thrashing of Kansas City.

September 5, 2011

Kupper Leads Revamped Offensive Line

Entering the 2011 season, who would have thought Alex Kupper would be the veteran on the offensive line with just one career start. However, the loss of four starters on the offensive line and an injury to center Mario Benavides pushed Kupper to center as the Cardinals broke in four other first-time starters.

When the Cardinals took the field for their first offensive possession of the year against Murray State, Kupper, who made one start last season, was the starting center. Jake Smith, a red-shirt freshman, and John Miller, a true freshman, were the starters at guard, while seniors Hector Hernandez and Ryan Kessling were making their first career starts at tackle.

“Every game is going to be a building process,” said Kupper. “We all have one game under our belt and now we are trying to get better for this game and build on what we did last game.”

The Cardinals pulled out a 21-9 over Murray State in the opener, and scored on three of their first four possessions to take a 21-0 lead. However, mental mistakes, turnovers and penalties plagued the Cardinals in the second half.

Will Stein hit fellow Trinity graduate Scott Radcliff with a four-yard touchdown strike, while Victor Anderson scored on a two-yard run to make it 14-0. Another Louisville product, DeVante Parker, scored on an acrobatic 39-yard pass reception to close out the scoring for the Cardinals.

The offensive line allowed just one sack, allowing Stein more time to find his receivers. Naturally, Kupper was pleased with his unit in what was their first time playing together.

“We did some good things,” said Kupper. “We didn’t have a lot of mental errors. There are some technical issues we have to get addressed but other than that we played pretty well.”

The Cardinals prided themselves last season on being able to run the football, leading the BIG EAST Conference in rushing and producing a 1,000-yard rusher in Bilal Powell, who totaled 1,405 yards and 11 scores. The Cardinals amassed 159 yards on 37 carries in the win over Murray State, but averaged just 4.0 yards a carry.

“When you get yourself into down and distances where it is more pass heavy, you become one-dimensional,” said Kupper about the team’s problems running the ball. “In the second half, penalties and turnovers are ultimately what destroyed our running game.”

Kupper knows that if the Cardinals are going to be a good football team and get back to a bowl game, they must emphasize their power running game.

“Obviously if you move the ball well on the ground, they have to put more people in the box and that opens up your passing game tremendously,” said Kupper. “I thought we did really well. We didn’t have a lot of missed assignments. We were targeted pretty well and it was just some technical issues.”

Kupper and the Cardinals will face a much larger challenge against FIU in a nationally televised contest on ESPN.

“FIU has a lot of athleticism,” said Kupper. “All seven of the guys up front can run really, really well. We just have to cover them up and stay on blocks.”