Louisville-Notre Dame Preview

BY foxsports • November 18, 2014

(AP) - Louisville coach Bobby Petrino expects freshman Reggie Bonnafon to play smarter in his second stint as the Cardinals' starting quarterback.

Brian Kelly's Notre Dame team is out of the AP Top 25 and suddenly on the brink because it can't overcome its own mistakes.

The Cardinals visit the Fighting Irish on Saturday after moving into the 24th spot in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.

Bonnafon, who started three games earlier this season in place of injured Will Gardner, regained the job when the sophomore sustained a season-ending left knee injury in a 38-19 win at Boston College on Nov. 8.

After relieving Gardner late in the first half, Bonnafon completed 4 of 5 passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 76 yards and a TD on 13 carries, another facet Petrino called a significant difference maker.

"We are asking him to be smart," Petrino said. "You know, make sure he gets the first down and takes care of himself" when he runs.

Though the Cardinals (7-3) will be without their top QB, they could possibly have a couple of key defensive players back from injuries against the Fighting Irish (7-3).

Senior linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin missed the game at BC with a hamstring injury, but Petrino said his prospects of playing Saturday were very encouraging. There's also a chance that defensive lineman Pio Vatuvei could return from an elbow injury, and Petrino said having the junior back would help the Cardinals against Notre Dame's rushing attack.

Sophomore wide receiver James Quick could also return from a suspension prior to the BC game. Petrino said Quick could come back this weekend if he takes care of the requirements placed upon him by the coaching staff.

Louisville's task in South Bend will be continuing its offensive roll after midseason doldrums.

The Cardinals appeared to have found their groove, having scored at least 30 points the past three games. They will face a Notre Dame defense that has struggled of late, yielding an average of 42.2 points over its last five games.

Louisville's fifth-ranked defense will face its own challenges against a high-powered Irish attack that Petrino said "just keeps going and scoring points."

Notre Dame averages 35.4 points, making red-zone success critical for a Cardinals team that has scored touchdowns on just 69 percent of its trips inside the 20 (31 of 45).

Said Petrino, "You know you're going to have to move the ball and get it in the end zone."

The Fighting Irish have been plagued by turnovers the past seven games, but the mistakes snowballed in a 43-40 overtime loss to Northwestern last week.

A bobbled snap on the point-after attempt that led to the Wildcats defense returning it for a two-point conversion. Ten players on the field for a 60-yard pass completion by Northwestern. Costly penalties, missed assignments, two missed field goals and Kelly deciding to go for a two-point conversion when the Irish probably should have gone for one are just some of the examples.

Kelly said Tuesday the mistakes began to affect everybody.

"I'm not getting paid to make stupid decisions like that," he said. "But you fall into that, right? And so I can't let our players fall into that. So that's what we talked about this week. We cannot let that affect the way we play. We've got to go play and we can't let those things affect us."

The Irish have turned the ball over 23 times, 19 by quarterback Everett Golson, in the last seven games.

"We're looking for answers. You've got some good ones, I'm all ears," Kelly said. "You guys want to write something down on a piece of paper, slide it to me, I'll take it. We're searching."