Jaylen Smith and Malik Williams spoke with the media following practice today.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Football head coach Bobby Petrino has been highly successful as the head coach at the University of Louisville, winning 74 games to be exact.
The high-octane offense can be attributed to a lot of the victories over the last eight seasons. While Petrino likes to throw the ball, he loves to be able to run the football, and that’s been one of the reasons why the Cardinals have had success in recent weeks.
After rushing for a season-best 411 yards versus Syracuse last weekend, the Cardinals have moved up to 19th nationally with an average of 241.2 yards per game, and senior running back Malik Williams has played a big part of it.
“It makes it a lot easier to move the football because you have the ability to hand the ball off to a running back and make yards,” Petrino said. “You’ve got the ability to use some of our option game and get yards, and then, still throwing the ball and being very efficient throwing the ball. We haven’t had as many yards throwing the ball lately. We’ve had great touchdown plays and big plays throwing the football. I think those plays have been opened up by our ability to throw the football.”
In the 56-10 win over the Orange, Williams ran for a career-high 180 yards and two scores, finding the end zone from 46 yards in the first quarter and a 56-yard scamper in the fourth.
“The offensive line did a great job,” Williams said. “Mekhi Becton, Robbie Bell, Lukayus McNeil, Kenny Thomas and Geron Christian opened up the holes for me, and all I did was run behind my pads to make big plays in the running game.”
At the beginning of the season, the Cardinals had a full stable of running backs, which provided promise for the season. However, over the course of the year, the backfield dwindled down to just one healthy back as injuries struck the unit.
“It’s great to have every one back,” Williams said. “I’m grateful to be healthy again, and to get Dae (Williams) back, it’s helped our rushing attack in recent weeks.”
The Cardinals’ running attack will be tested by a Kentucky defense that allows a respectable 145.5 yards per game and is anchored by a big, physical defensive line.
“They’re playing good defense,” Petrino said. “So, it will be a good week of preparation, good challenge for us, but certainly, we’re looking forward to it. They’re doing a really good job on defense with the scheme they use, and their secondary does a good job.”
The Cardinals, who lost 41-38 at home last season to Kentucky, will certainly be ready to face their rivals Saturday afternoon at Kroger Field, with an opportunity to reach eight victories in a season for the eighth time under Petrino.
“We’re just taking it one day at a time, we have to put in the work and we can’t look too far ahead at things like that,” senior running back Reggie Bonnafon said. “We’re just looking forward to Tuesday. I’m sure guys are ready for practice and go hard and we’ll let the rest take care of itself.”
While the Kentucky game is a big rival game, Bonnafon sees the in-state matchup a little differently.
“If there’s a game on our schedule, that’s something to play for and we have one this upcoming week. We’re going to continue to grind and let the rest take care of itself on Saturday.”