LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Bobby Petrino looked serious as he walked into his first game-week news conference as Louisville's coach. His mood was understandable considering he was about to announce that top receiver DeVante Parker would miss nearly two months with a broken toe.
Petrino departed a half-hour later appearing more upbeat after discussing a Cardinals team he believes can overcome that setback with a deep receiving corps and a defense that returns several starters. The hard part is waiting until next Monday night to prove it.
But Petrino relishes having extra time to prepare for his second debut coaching Louisville, which will host Miami in the season opener. The game will be the Cardinals' Atlantic Coast Conference debut and their coach is eager to make a good first impression.
"This is now game week and now they're trying to get in the best position where they can play the best game that they have," said Petrino, who coached Louisville from 2003-06.
"If you go out as a team and as a player and all you're worried about is the end result, you end up losing a lot of games. What we need to worry about is playing one play at time, our performance and doing things that give you a chance to win games."
Louisville's offense will be challenged to offset the absence of Parker, who broke the fifth metatarsal (small toe) in his left foot in practice Friday night. He was scheduled to undergo surgery Monday afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina, and will be sidelined six to eight weeks.
Petrino believes the Cardinals' abundance of quick and reliable receivers such as Eli Rogers, Kai De La Cruz, James Quick and tight end Gerald Christian are ready to make up the difference.
"We just got to do a good job of making sure that they're fresh out there and at full speed coming off the ball," Petrino said.
The coach settled one matter Sunday night by naming sophomore Will Gardner as his starting quarterback. Considered all along as the favorite to succeed Teddy Bridgewater, Gardner locked up the job in fall camp. However, Petrino hinted that freshman Reggie Bonnafon could spell Gardner for several series.
However long Gardner plays, he's confident about executing the offense even without its go-to target.
"I feel like I have a good grasp of the offense and the defenses that we'll see and make good decisions," Gardner said, adding, "it's tough when you lose a guy like DeVante. But with the guys we have at receiver, I know they're going to step up and have a great game against Miami."
Louisville's other concern is the status of senior backup tailback Michael Dyer, who hasn't practiced since bruising his thigh in last week's scrimmage. Petrino wouldn't declare Dyer out for the Hurricanes but said the next couple of days are critical in determining his availability and preparation for the game.
The Cardinals will practice every day with the game-week routine kicking in on Thursday. The extended schedule allows Gardner and his receivers to connect while their defense continues breaking in seven new starters along with switching from a 4-3 base set to a 3-4.
The new alignment's success will depend on veterans such as senior outside linebacker/end Lorenzo Mauldin, who had 9.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss last season as a down lineman. His enthusiasm to make it work for real might explain why Petrino left the room feeling better than when he entered.
Said Mauldin, "Now that it's game week, we can set our minds to Miami instead of just learning all the plays."