By Ryan Alves
“Make plays.”This is the mantra Coach Dean Hood is issuing to his Colonel football team, as Eastern prepares to take on Big East opponent Louisville at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium Saturday, Sept. 11.
Hood, whose Colonels are coming off a disappointing loss to Missouri State, said he knows his team will have to execute and make the plays if his team expects to upset the Cardinals.
“We fully expected to win against Missouri State,” Hood said. “I thought we had a great summer, great training camp. I thought we were really ready to play. We were really disappointed. Players didn’t make the plays they should have and coaches didn’t make the calls they should have.”
With just one game down, coaches and players still understand every possession counts.
“We had dropped balls, missed tackles, mental errors on assignments,” Hood said. “You have to make plays. Everything is a concept of transfer. From individual workouts, to a group setting. From the group setting, to the team stuff. From the team to the scrimmages and then to the game.”
Senior linebacker, Jordan Dalrymple, understands what his coach is saying.
“We have to go out and make something happen,” said Dalrymple, who recorded six total tackles in Week One. “Last week we didn’t make it happen. We have to get better.”
Dalrymple, will look to anchor a defense that has the task of stopping the Cardinals’ rushing attack, which gained 190 yards against the University of Kentucky Wildcats in week one. Against the Bears, the Colonels allowed 189 yards rushing.
“We have to play assignment football, that’s one thing we didn’t do last Friday,” Dalrymple said. “We have to shut down the run. And just play our kind of ball.”
Louisville will use a duo of running backs in Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson. Powell, who was named a member of this week’s Big East weekly Honor Roll, rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown against the Cats. The Cardinals starting quarterback, Adam Froman, also has the ability to escape the pocket, tuck it and run.
“They have a lot of great athletes,” Dalrymple said. “We just have to be where we are supposed to be and make plays.”
Quarterback T.J. Pryor, who threw for a career high 315 yards last week but was unable to find the end zone, knows his offensive unit has to step up as well.
“Offensively we had some good drives and did a lot of great things, but a dropped pass here, a missed block or an interception stopped us,” Pryor said. “We have to come together as a team and keep our defense off the field. They made some huge stops for us.”
Pryor, who is from Louisville and played high school football at Ballard, is excited for the opportunity to play in front of his local friends and family. Pryor also admits to a little trash talk with his buddies that started as soon as the schedule was released.
“I’ll have a lot of family and friends that will be there,” Pryor said. “My mom comes to all the games anyway, but it is really fun to play in front of family and friends. And it’s good to have their support.”
“They already are smack-talking. One of my good friends Dexter Heyman plays there and he been trash talking for a while. I want to be the one who comes away with the bragging rights.”
Dalrymple added that any game against an opponent of this caliber plays a role in the mental aspect of the game.
“Anytime you’re playing in a stadium that big and with a packed house crowd like that it adds a little bit extra,” Dalrymple said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere and you have to love the opportunity play a great program like Louisville.”
Charlie Strong, head coach of the Cardinals, isn’t overlooking the Colonels as some may expect.
“They have a great quarterback,” Strong said via the Big East weekly teleconference. “They have good receivers who can make plays and play very, very strong, solid defense.”
This will make Eastern’s 11th straight season playing against a NCAA FBS program. And though the “experts” may give the Colonels no chance of winning, Coach Hood isn’t buying into the David vs. Goliath upset theme. He said his team will take the same mental approach as any other game.
“Nothing is going to change for us as far as that goes,” Hood said. “We both will have 11 guys on the field.
“All that stuff is for the media hype: ‘they came off this, we came off that. They play on turf. It’s a three o’clock game and their record in three o’clock games. And Charlie Strong this and Dean Hood that,'” he continued. “What’s going to make the difference is out there on that practice field and who executes come game time and who can adjust.”
Dalyrmple summed it up.
“That stadium is going to get you fired up and ready to knock somebody in the mouth. And that’s what we have to do. Play hard-nosed, passionate, EKU football.”
This is Eastern’s first meeting with Louisville since 1991, which the Cardinals won 24-14.