Friday, October 25, 2002

Ragone, Smith differ on view of Cardinals

By Chris Duncan
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The bond is strong between Louisville coach John L. Smith and quarterback Dave Ragone.

The former Cleveland, Ohio, prep star was one of Smith's first recruits when he arrived in 1998, and the two have become close as they've led the program to unprecedented success over the past two seasons.

But this week, in the fallout from a 45-31 loss to TCU, the coach and the quarterback have disagreed about what's wrong with the Cardinals (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA), who've fallen short of lofty preseason expectations.

Smith ripped his team for coming out with no emotion against the Horned Frogs. He added that he's struggled to motivate too many players all season, characterizing Louisville as a team of "givers and takers."

Ragone said that's not the case.

"Coach Smith believes there are guys who are selfish. As a captain and a leader, I don't see it," Ragone said. "I see my guys up front giving everything they've got. Sometimes, it's not good enough. Sometimes, teams are just better than you.

"You can try any gimmick or ploy you want. You motivate yourself at this level," he said. "I'm not going to motivate the guy next to me. If he sees me play hard, hopefully, he picks up on it. But I expect him to play as hard as I do, and I think they do."

Smith said his team can't afford to lose again this season, starting with Saturday's game against East Carolina (2-4, 2-0).

Ragone said Smith is overreacting to last week's performance.

"We still have all our goals in sight. This isn't doomsday," said Ragone, second in the league in passing yards and efficiency. "We've gotten over losses before and we're going to get over this one.

"If you win a game, all of a sudden, we're the best team again," he said. "Some days, we just don't play that well. When we play well, we're the best team out there. Some days, we're just not clicking."

The defense, with 10 starters back from last season, certainly wasn't clicking against the Horned Frogs, who marched to a 31-0 second-quarter lead before the Cardinals knew what hit them. TCU quarterback Tye Gunn found three different receivers wide open for touchdown passes in the first half.

"The first time, I was a little shocked. I was like, 'OK, blown coverage. That happens from time to time,"' said defensive end Dewayne White, who leads Conference USA with seven sacks. "The second and the third, it's just uncalled for. For our defense to have so many people with so much experience, it should've never happened.

"The defense lost the game for us."

That doesn't bode well for Saturday's game.

The Pirates lost to South Florida 46-30 last week, but amassed 510 total yards - 73 more than TCU's output against the Cardinals.

East Carolina coach Steve Logan said TCU left a valuable blueprint for how to attack Louisville's defense, which was 10th in the nation in points allowed last season.

"The good news is that Texas Christian really did some nice things on film against what I thought and still do think is one of the top two or three defenses in this league," Logan said. "The bad news is that I really do believe that John L. Smith will make really some significant changes in their scheme and (do) stuff that we have not seen."

Smith said he doesn't plan any wholesale changes in schemes or personnel.

"We do exactly what we do every day. They're regimented in everything that they do. We just have to play with more energy," Smith said. "Play with emotion, play with abandon and be into it. It's not all that difficult."

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