Louisville comes into Friday night's game rated No. 18 in the nation in rushing offense, having amassed 212.75 yards per game and an impressive eight rushing touchdowns in the Cards' first four games.
The 212 yards per game is the program's highest per game average since 2004 when four NFL running backs - Eric Shelton, Lionel Gates, Michael Bush and Kolby Smith were in the backfield. How are the Cards getting it done? With a three-headed rushing attack that includes power (Brock Bolen), speed (Bilal Powell) and quickness (Victor Anderson).
UofL was stymied for just 53 yards and no touchdowns on 29 carries in its season-opener against Kentucky but has been averaging 266 rushing yards per game since then.
"We didn't run the ball well in the first contest, but since then we've run the way we needed to to move the offense," Kragthorpe said. "We've managed the down-and-distance situations better, which allows us to convert more on our play-action passing game and third downs."
Anderson is the smallest and fastest of the three at 5 feet 9, 185 pounds. Bolen is the largest and toughest at 6-0, 245, and the 6-0, 208-pound Powell is something of a hybrid between the two. Kragthorpe said the key to all three backs being effective is being able to use Anderson for pass protection as well as runs that break to the outside.
"You have to have versatility, otherwise they'll know what the play call might be just by which style of back is going into the game," Kragthorpe said. "I think all three of our backs are effective because they can all work in pass-protection downs. Vic is the smallest of the three, but he's a very good pass protector. They all do a good job with that."
Anderson has rushed for 421 yards and five touchdowns on 61 carries this season.
"Vic is a tough guy to tackle," Kragthorpe said. "He's got a low center of gravity, and he can stick his foot in the ground and make a quick move in any direction. He also does a great job of running behind his pads."
Powell has 209 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries, and Bolen has 193 yards and two touchdowns on 47 carries.
"As you look at those three guys - Brock has done a good job of bouncing the ball outside and getting extra yardage not only this year, but last year.... Bilal has done the same thing, and he's done a good job of running behind his pads. That run that he scored on in the first drive of the second half (against UConn) was a heck of a run. He short-necked that safety. That was a tough, hard-nosed run."