LOUISVILLE — “You gotta believe.”
That’s been the mantra of Louisville Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino throughout the offseason.
Petrino has been telling his players they have to believe they can beat No. 1 Alabama, and if they don’t believe they can win, they won’t win. To back up his words to his players, Petrino closed his remarks at the school’s annual Kickoff Luncheon in front of a packed ballroom of well-heeled donors with a strong statement.
“They’re a very good football team,” Petrino began.
“They’ve got a great tradition. We’re excited to play them. It’s a great challenge and we know that, but I’m going to tell you this — if we can get where we have every single guy on our team, every single coach on our team to believe like I believe — because I believe we’re gonna go beat ’em — so I need everybody else to believe that. And we will go beat ’em.”
Petrino’s inflection was a rallying cry and the fans ate it up, applauding his statement with hoots and hollers at the fairly formal event.
And how is Petrino’s team doing on the road to believing they can beat Alabama?
Petrino said Monday they are coming along.
“I want our guys to focus on their assignments and what they need to do to prepare for Saturday,” he said. “Confidence comes from preparation so we need to have a good week of practice and a good week of preparation.”
Louisville’s coaching staff started working on film for Alabama shortly after the bowl game last season and spent more time in early summer breaking down film.
“We usually have one week [during the offseason] where we totally game plan for this game,” Petrino said. “Then we come back for spring ball and spend time practicing for it. And then in the summer time you spend another week or two game-planning and now it starts all over again.”
Louisville will certainly be prepared, but Alabama will be an extreme test. The Cardinals will face both the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country this season with Clemson coming up on the schedule on Nov. 3.
QB Jawon Pass is the player tasked with filling the shoes of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Pass is not nearly the runner that Jackson was. Jackson set yardage records in all of NCAA football history with his ability to run and pass so effectively. What Pass lacks in Jackson’s speed and shiftiness, he is hoping to make up for in his ability to distribute the ball effectively and run Bobby Petrino’s full offense.
DE Jonathan Greenard will be facing one of the toughest challenges of his career, trying to get after Alabama’s quarterback — regardless if it is Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts. Petrino said: “We’ve been having to prepare for both of them. They both can run. They’re both big, 220-pound guys that can run with big hips. They’re hard to tackle. So the thing we have to do is get in position to make the tackle when they do run. And do a great job of form tackling and getting extra guys to the ball.”
WR Jaylen Smith is Louisville’s top offensive threat. He had an emergency appendectomy on the same day Louisville reported for fall camp. He missed two full weeks of workouts, but has been rounding back into shape and will be ready for the opening game Saturday. Smith is a big, physical threat at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He was named preseason All-ACC, Louisville’s only entry on the preseason all-conference team.