- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Louisville linebacker Keith Kelsey quickly sums up the Cardinals’ mindset about their 0-3 start.

“Those three games are behind us,” the junior captain said.

True, but Louisville hopes to use the lessons learned from a rugged 12-day stretch that left the team with its worst start in 31 years. The Cardinals seek a fresh start and their first win of the season Saturday against Football Championship Subdivision member Samford (2-1).

Louisville squandered chances in losses to then-No. 6 Auburn, Houston and No. 11 Clemson by a combined 13 points. Those close calls reinforce the coaching staff’s push for precise practices

“We’ve got to continue to work and understand that with where we are, it can come down to one possession,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “It can come down to one play. So we’ve got to make sure that we’re exact all the time.”

Grantham has used his 11 years as an NFL assistant coach and his stint as Georgia’s defensive coordinator to stress to players the importance of each game. After all, the Bulldogs rebounded from 0-2 in his second season in Athens to win 10 straight and reach the 2011 SEC championship game.

So it’s not too late for the Cardinals to get back on track, which they hope to start with a win against the Bulldogs. Coaches plan to test additional players, though Grantham noted it’s no cakewalk against an offense averaging more than 41 points and 533 yards a game.

“There’s all kind of wideouts,” Grantham said of the Bulldogs receivers. “You’ve got a big quarterback that can throw the ball. … We’re going to see some skill guys out there.”

Kelsey’s message to his younger teammates has been to regroup and focus on collective goals if the Cardinals hope to reach the six-win threshold needed to earn the school’s sixth straight bowl bid.

“It doesn’t matter about individual stats,” Kelsey said. “We’re 0-3 at the end of the day; nobody cares about individual stats. We’ve got to out there and play as a team.”


Some things to watch when Louisville hosts Samford:

SLOW STARTS: Known for taking the ball when winning the opening coin flip, coach Bobby Petrino’s Louisville teams have scored 10 or more points in the first quarter in 24 of his 66 games with the Cardinals for a 538-323 advantage. Louisville has scored just seven points in the first quarter so far.

MULTIPLE CHOICES: Senior Bulldogs quarterback Michael Eubank has completed nearly 69 percent of his passes for 907 yards and seven TDs, all to different receivers. The Arizona State transfer and backup Delvin Hodges have completed passes to 15 receivers, mostly to juniors Karel Hamilton (20 catches, 225 yards) and Emmanuel Obajimi (16 for 213).

QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE: Louisville is the only school in the country to start a different quarterback in each of its three games. Saturday remains undecided with freshman Lamar Jackson or sophomore Kyle Bolin listed as the possible starter. Bolin started last week’s game against Clemson.

FAMILIAR FOE: The inaugural matchup features a familiar face in Samford coach Chris Hatcher, who coached in-state program Murray State twice against Louisville including last season. The Cardinals won that game 66-21 and have won 19 straight against FCS opponents.

RECEIVING HELP: Louisville’s top four receivers by yardage are all freshmen but some veteran experience could be available Saturday. Junior James Quick could see his first action since injuring his ankle in the opener against Auburn, and tight end might be at full strength with Keith Towbridge and Cole Hikutini joining receptions leader Micky Crum (12).


AP College Football: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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