Archer: LeFors is the key for Cards

September 01, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Statistics don't impress Mike Archer. But talent does.

The Kentucky defensive coordinator knows Louisville's offense was among the nation's most productive offenses last season. However, rather than worry about the numbers the Cardinals put up last year, Archer has been trying to figure a way to slow down Louisville's diversified attack in Sunday's season-opening game.

"When you finish in the top five in the country in scoring, total offense and rushing, you have done a good job," said Archer. "I don't care who you have done it against. They are very, very good."

Quarterback Stefan LeFors, who was pushed by incoming freshman Brian Brohm in preseason practice, threw for 3,145 yards and ran for 405 yards. He completed 61 percent of his passes, best in Conference USA, and threw just 10 interceptions.


"He puts them in right plays all the time," Archer said. "He gets them out of bad situations. The kid is a winner. We didn't know a lot about him last year, but he showed me something the second play of the game when he threw the ball on a fade route to a kid right on the boundary. It was a phenomenal throw. A college quarterback in his first big game doesn't make that throw very often. But he did it and told me right then he was special.

"To me, he's the catalyst to their offense. He got banged up at the end of last year and it affected his throwing. But he will be better and they will be better. I just hope we are better."

Louisville's running game was potent last year with Lionel Gates (817 yards, 11 touchdowns), Eric Shelton (790 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Michael Bush (503 yards, six touchdowns).

Cards ranked 10th in nation in rushing

The Cardinals rushed for 2,966 yards, 10th best in the nation, and averaged 5.73 yards per carry, the nation's best mark.

"It's a three-headed monster in the backfield," Archer said. "Shelton is a real monster. Gates will also play in the NFL. Then there is Bush, a future NFL player, too. They have three running backs that are big-time players."

Actually, it might be four.

Kolby Smith, a sophomore like Bush, ran for 131 yards and one score on just 18 carries last year. Louisville running backs coach Greg Nord expects a lot more out of him this year.

"He might be the most versatile of them all," Nord said. "He can catch and run. He's a very good player.

"We really have good backs. Shelton has size, speed and experience. Gates is in as good a shape as he's ever been in. He has the speed to finish runs and score at any time. He's also a great threat out of the backfield as a pass catcher. Bush, at 250 pounds, is as fast as most players on our team and can do anything. He will get the ball."

Archer remembers how the Cardinals pounded on his de-fense last year. Kentucky defenders that made tackles in the first half were bouncing off Louisville runners in the second half.

"It pounds on you because it is a physical style of football," Archer said.

Nord isn't even sure who will be Louisville's No. 1 runner against Kentucky. Shelton will start, but that doesn't mean he will play the most.

"I said one time earlier in my career that if you didn't have a No. 1 back, then you didn't have any backs," Nord said. "But that's not the case this year. I think we will get the ball to who is hot. Generally, one guy will get hot, but it could be any of those four guys in a given game. I don't know which one it might be against Kentucky. All four are going to contribute, but my guess is that one will take the bull by the horns each game."

Russell went over 1,000 yards last season

The Cardinals are not nearly as deep at receiver. However, senior J.R. Russell had 75 receptions for 1,213 yards last year and became only the fourth Louisville receiver to reach 1,000 yards in one season.

"He's as good a receiver as you can find," Nord said. "He'll make big plays."

Archer says there's no simple way to stop the Cardinals, who scored 450 points last year and averaged 488.5 yards of total offense per game in 2003.

"There is no magic scheme to stop them," Archer said. "We have looked at all of their tapes from last year. Nobody really slowed them down. Memphis got up early and Louisville couldn't run, so Memphis blitzed them from everywhere in the stadium. But that was the only game they didn't run a lot.

"I would feel a lot better if we didn't have so many guys hurting and questionable for the game. But injuries are part of the game. They probably have injuries, too. We will line up with the ones we have. I do feel comfortable that our guys fit the schemes better this year, but we'll find out for sure Sunday."

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