By Aaron Williams
The 2011 Louisville Cardinals will take the field against the Racers of Murray State on Thursday, Sept. 1 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in a highly anticipated season opener that is set to be aired on ESPNU as part of the worldwide leader’s college football kickoff.
The Cardinals, who finished 7-6 overall last season with their final victory coming against the University of Southern Mississippi for the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, return three starters on offense this season including senior running back Victor Anderson, who will look to fill the hole left by former senior running back Bilal Powell. Powell rushed for over 1400 yards last season while Anderson averaged 28 yards per game in 10 games played during a season that plagued him with injuries. Cardinal fans can look for a now healthy Anderson, who rushed for over 100 yards in a recent Saturday scrimmage, to make more of an impact against the Racers and this season.
Leading the offense will be junior quarterback Will Stein who has a slew of offensive weapons at his disposal, from freshman wide receiver DeVante Parker to senior tight end Josh Chichester. The Cards will be predominately young at the receiver position this season, but have junior receiver Andrell Smith and senior receiver Josh Bellamy to temper youth with experience. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford addressed the inexperience of the younger players involved in the offense in comments he made to the media following an Aug. 20 scrimmage.
“We’ve got to look at who we are… and what we need to do and emphasize based on that tied in with the whole inexperience issue,” said Sanford, “We’re not going to have any excuses, we’ve got to play well.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals return six starters. Sophomore linebacker Preston Brown spoke to The Louisville Cardinal about the Card’s ability to contain 2010 First-Team All-Ohio Valley Conference senior running back Mike Harris and stifle Racer quarterback Casey Brockman with notable injuries to the defensive line such as senior defensive end Greg Scruggs, sophomore defensive end B.J. Butler and sophomore defensive tackle Brandon Dunn.
“[The injuries] really shouldn’t affect us that much,” said Brown, who went on to explain the Cards will go with a three linemen look and assured that Louisville will be good in rotation defensively wise.
“If we just play sound and make tackles, we should be fine,” said Brown.
Brown also said the Cards will be looking to blitz to provide pressure that will help Louisville’s young cornerbacks such as freshman Charles Gaines, freshman Terell Floyd and freshman Andrew Johnson.
Student anticipation for the matchup is high.
“Definitely excited to see the new quarterback in, see who they choose, definitely excited to see the running game, see those guys get out and the wide receivers,” said John Dice, a freshman bioengineering major.
The Cards will take the field against the Racers at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1.