Cards
Trey Franklin runs the ball after nabbing an interception during the game against Virginia on Oct. 9. (Photo by Adam Creech/Louisville Athletics)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Everyone agrees that, with Clemson struggling, the race for the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division championship -- and the overall title, for that matter -- is wide open this season for a change.

But if Louisville (3-3, 1-2) doesn't snap out of its October funk quickly, that door of opportunity will slam shut for the Cardinals quicker than you can say trick or treat.

So UofL badly needs a win over another struggling team, Boston College (4-2, 0-2), Saturday in Cardinal Stadium (4 p.m., ACCN) to end a two-game skid before facing its toughest remaining ACC foe, 23rd-ranked N.C. State (5-1, 2-0), on the road Halloween weekend. Wake Forest leads the Atlantic with a 4-0 record, while Clemson is 3-1, so a loss to the Eagles would all but eliminate the Cards from title contention.

"Our goal is still the same -- to go win an ACC championship," defensive back Kenderick Duncan said.

UofL, a 5.5-point favorite against BC, is coming off back-to-back last-second losses to Wake and Virginia in which its defense has failed to hold up its end of the bargain for an offense that appears to be hitting its stride, with one exception.

 For all their success gaining yardage the Cards have been puzzlingly lacking in third down conversions, going 7-of-25 (28.0 percent) in the last two losses and 36.4 percent overall, which is No. 91 nationally.

 The Cards have produced over 500 yards of total offense in their last two games and seem to have gotten their running attack untracked. Problem is, their defense has given up just as many, with Wake and Virginia combining for 1,023 yards. And in those two games they allowed third down conversions at the rate of 50 percent (19-of-38), in addition to 3-of-3 fourth downs.

The Demon Deacons and Wahoos both ran over 80 plays and Virginia outscored UofL 21-3 in the fourth quarter, wiping out a 17-point deficit, possibly due in part to fatigue by the defense.

During the bye week, head coach Scott Satterfield said he and his staff spent a lot of time analyzing how they can adjust their defense and mix up their schemes throughout the game to try and keep the opposing offense off balance more often. Bring more pressure? Use more man-to-man pass coverage? Put more defensive backs or pass rushers on the field?

"You have to look at all those things to try to figure out putting the best players in the best positions to make plays," Satterfield said. "Then scheme-wise, what is going to give us the best chance to stop teams? Hopefully, we've come up with a better plan to go out there and slown down these offenses."

Defensive coordinator Bryan Brown said he thinks it's a matter of focus, a byproduct of having a young team. Nine of Louisville's defensive starters are underclassmen.

"We're not a senior-laden team," he said. "When you're a really, really young team you have to understand how to finish games, you got to close games out. And I have to do a better job of making sure that our guys are prepared in every single situation, then we've got to execute when it's time to execute. Our guy continue to fight and play hard. We've got to execute down the stretch in order to win football games."

One thing that will be in favore of Louisville defesne Saturday is that Boston College doesn't present near the defensive challenges as the last two foes. But on the other hand it could pose more of a problem for the Cards' offense.

The Eagles are 12th in the ACC in total offense with 388.8 yards per game, and quarterback Dennis Grosel isn't in the top 10 in the ACC in any category, although they have managed to score 31 points per game.

 Grosel, a redshirt senior who took over in the second game after returning starter Phil Jurkovec was injured, has thrown for 982 yards and five touchdowns, with five interceptions. Junior wide receiver is BC's leading receiver with 352 yards and three TDs, while sophomore Pat Garwo is its leading rusher (519 yards, five TDs).

Like UofL, BC has dropped back-to-back games, falling to NC State 33-7 last week on the heels of a 19-13 loss to Clemson.

"There's no reason for anyone to panic or start thinking some crazy things," BC coach Jeff Hartley said. "Our guys are going to fight, and we're going to get them better."

The Cards should be well-rested coming off the bye week, and they say they're determined to prove during the second half of the season that they're better than they've shown so far.

"We aren't a bad football team at all," wide receiver Justin Marshall said. "We are a good football team and I feel like once we take control of what we can control, there is no stopping us. Every play counts. Every down counts. What it comes down to is a play here or a play there for us to be victorious."

The Cards had better start making those plays soon or they'll find themselves on the outside looking in as the division race continues to unfold -- and facing the same fate when it comes time for bowl selections.

WALZ GIVEN CONTRACT EXTENSION

UofL announced Friday that women's head basketball coach Jeff Walz and athletic director Vince Tyra have agreed to a revised contract which includes an extension through 2028.

 "I am blessed to have an amazing staff and coach wonderful young women who represent their families, our program, the University and the city of Louisville with class and pride," Walz said in a release from the school. "It has been 15 years of hard work, doing things the right way and lots of on and off the court wins that have made this extension possible. . . .My wife, children and I love the University and can't thank the city of Louisville enough for your support of women's basketball."

Entering his 15th season as head coach, Walz has guided UofL to 10 trips to the Sweet 16, six to the Elite Eight and three to the Final Four, advancing to the national title game twice. Overall, he has compiled a 33-12 record in NCAA Tournament games after the program had produced just four tournament wins before his arrival.

Walz is the all-time winningest coach in program history with a record of 385-108 and averages 27.5 victories per season. He directed Louisville to a program-record 36 victories in 2017-18 en route to being named ACC Coach of the Year, 34 victories in 2008-09, 33 in 2013-14 and 32 in 2018-19. The Cards, ranked No. 8 in the AP preseason poll, will be seeking their fifth straight ACC regular season title this year and are 122-15 over that four-year span.

CONTRACT EXTENSIONS

Louisville also extended the contracts of field hockey coach Justine Sowry, who guided the Cardinals to the Final Four last season, through 2028 and softball coach Holly Aprile through the 2026 season.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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