Bobby Petrino and Geron Christian spoke with the media following today’s practice.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The first open week of the season came at an opportune time for the University of Louisville football team.
Since the start of fall camp in July, the Cardinals have been going full-bore, and the bye week was needed after a 42-32 loss to Wake Forest on Oct. 28.
“The bye week was a good time to give the team a break,” head coach Bobby Petrino said Monday after practice. “We were able to work hard in the weight room and it allowed the team to get healthier heading into this week’s game.”
The Cardinals practiced Tuesday through Thursday last week before taking the weekend off and returning to the practice on Monday afternoon.
“We came out this evening and had a good practice,” Petrino said. “I thought the guys came out today with a lot of energy and had some guys with their legs back.”
Petrino singled out senior linebacker Stacy Thomas, who benefitted from the time off. He hurt his knee in a loss at NC State and missed two games before returning to the lineup versus Wake Forest. The time away was crucial to allow him to return to full strength.
“He’s been the leader of the defense,” Petrino said. “He made all the calls and ran the defense. It’s kind of like losing your quarterback back there. He’s back full speed and running the show, and he’s also a real good player. He has really good instincts to be able to bounce out and make the tackle.”
Sitting at 5-4 with three games remaining, the Cardinals need at least one more victory to become bowl eligible for the eighth-straight season.
The stretch run begins Saturday with a contest versus Virginia, which just became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 after a 40-36 win at home against Georgia Tech.
“We are looking forward to this game with Virginia,” Petrino said. “They are good football team, we know them very well. We’ve had good games with them in the past. Their quarterback (Kurt Benkert) made a lot of plays to let them win the game last Saturday. He’s accurate, and they always run the ball very well too.”
Ranking third in the nation in offensively, the Cardinals have been one of the best this season – having one of four offenses in the country averaging 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing this season, but will face a tough Cavaliers defense.
“They have a great defensive end in Chris Peace, who has 6.5 sacks this season,” Petrino said. “They have a good inside linebacker (Micah Kiser), so we are going to have to know where they are to keep our quarterback clean, and be able to run the football.”
The Cavaliers have played the Cardinals closely in Louisville’s three seasons in the league. Last season, Lamar Jackson rescued the Cardinals with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Smith with 13 seconds left for a 32-25 win in Charlottesville.
The Cardinals close the regular season with a pair of home games, and Petrino knows the clock is ticking for the senior class, which has won 31 games during their careers at Louisville.
“Ours seniors know the clock is ticking,” Petrino said. “When you get to this point of the season, there isn’t a lot of time left in their career, so they’ve come out with a great attitude to get ready for these last two home games.”