Welcome back to your weekly keys to victory for the Louisville football team. Last Monday, we saw a very different Cardinal squad than the one we saw during the 2018 campaign. While they ultimately fell short, you could see the seeds of Scott Satterfield’s master plan begin to take root. From the kickoff, there was a level of discipline, effort, and cohesion that was simply absent last season. I am, along with most of the fan base, encouraged that my faith in this staff and the latent talent on this roster was justified. Frankly, we were a few ill-timed turnovers away from competing to the last whistle, and maybe even stealing that one.
BUT, we still lost. And we, much like our Coach, are not into moral victories. We glean our positives and we move on to the next. In this case, the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky (the geography is debatable, as our Tom Farmer is one to point out). I like to think that this past weekend has moved this game from “just win”, to “let’s work out some issues before we get in to the meat of the schedule”. So, without further ado…
KEYS TO VICTORY
- SETTLE ON A CENTER – I know it seems like a weird complaint after the Cards ran for 250 yards against a highly respected Notre Dame defense, but the center rotation stood out and struck me as very odd from halftime til the end of the game (any of you who follow me on social media know this bothered me…a lot). The center-quarterback relationship is key, as is the center’s position as defacto captain of the offensive line. He usually must recognize fronts and call protections. Not to mention the continuity in blocking schemes, ESPECIALLY the zone scheme that Ledford/Satterfield love to feature. Maybe most importantly, every center’s shotgun snap is different. The ball comes at a different angle and different velocity depending on who is delivering it. I would rather rotate literally any other position on the field than center, QB included. Coach Satterfield played both because he thought they both deserved snaps. Fine. Play one for a full quarter, then rotate the other in if you must. In the next two weeks, the center position needs to be solidified, with the odd man out finding time at another spot on the line.
- ESTABLISH THE PASSING GAME – Much like the rest of this list, this is less a key to winning this week as it is a key to setting up the rest of the season. Jawon Pass had some bright spots on Monday. I thought his decision making, especially early, was on point. He tucked when it was appropriate, threw the ball away instead of forcing the issue, and completed a few passes. But as the game went on, it was clear he was more comfortable running the ball, and less comfortable progressing through his reads and making throws, and maybe overly reliant on Tutu Atwell. I love that he has good chemistry with Tutu, and Tutu is very talented, but Dez Fitzpatrick and Seth Dawkins need more than one catch a piece if this offense is going to be what it could be. I noticed happy feet throughout the second half, and felt like he missed some open (and easy) throws. That being said, separation wasn’t always apparent. The Irish kept a safety in the box pretty much the entire second half. It says a lot that UofL still found success on the ground despite this, but that won’t always be the case. There needs to be a consistent passing threat to go with our potent running game.
- BALL SECURITY – This is a recurring theme from last week, but after fumbling the ball five times and losing three of them, it needs to be restated. Jawon was public enemy #1 in this category, fumbling the ball three times and losing ALL three of them. This tends to happen when you carry the ball like a loaf of Wonder Bread. Coach Satterfield insists that this was not an issue in camp, so here’s to hoping last game was an anomaly. There is an obvious difference between playing in camp against your teammates, and playing under the lights against Notre Dame in front of 60,000 fans. If you want to know how we can lose to a middling FCS team, this is your answer. Start handing them the ball and watch this game get far more competitive than anybody wants.
- NO CHUNK PLAYS – It was hard not to be pleased with what we saw out of Louisville’s defense on Monday. Despite giving up 423 total yards, they acquitted themselves very well. After giving up a touchdown on the first drive, they forced a three and out, and continued to get ND off the field at key times. After the debacle that was last season (VAN GOOOOORRRRRRRDER), it was refreshing to see a solid scheme, and players flying to the ball. They showed clear fatigue late, but overall showed a great deal of heart. One area of weakness was the tendency to give up chunk plays to the Irish offense. Many of these came in the form of QB scrambles, and the occasional blown coverage. The Irish are deep and talented, with a veteran quarterback able to take advantage of these miscues. Against EKU, the Cards should look limit plays of 20 yards or more. Mistakes will always happen, but limiting the damage done by said mistakes is key. When outmanning an opponent (which won’t be the case pretty much *checks schedule* ever again), you need to make sure you don’t gas them up.
- DEVELOP DEPTH – I don’t have the snap breakdown in front of me, but it was clear that the coaching staff had a philosophy of splitting time at certain position groups (defensive line, CENTER, etc). They should take it a step further this week and play some second/third string guys in spots when possible/feasible. Injuries will inevitably be a problem (see Khane Pass), and games like this are invaluable for depth development. Especially with the four game/redshirt rule. Personally I would like to see Aidan Robbins and Dae Williams get some carries this week. Javian and Hassan looked phenomenal Monday, but carrying the lion’s share may get a bit heavy for the relatively small backs. Save their legs when you can. If the lead is comfortable, I would love to see the second team offensive line out there. It features three true freshmen who will all redshirt, Cole Bentley, and Adonis Boone. Ideally we won’t use any of them (outside Cole) heavily this season, but any experience is invaluable for the young guys. Besides, odds are one or more may be pressed in to service later this season. I also would not be surprised in the least to see Evan Conley (or Malik, if he’s ready) late in the game. He has that four game grace period, and we may not get many spots to run him out there.
WHAT BISCUIT’S WATCHING
- The center spot & the center/quarterback exchange. Let’s clean it up. Yes I am a little over-focused on this.
- Focus. Will the team keep the same energy for the Colonels that they had for the Irish? Despite our excitement over Monday’s performance, the Cards are in no position to assume a victory over anybody. Go out and play 60 minutes.
- The Ladybirds and the cheer squads. After Elizabeth Scott was clearly targeted by notorious thug Ian Book, I move that we up security on our sidelines and possibly install some kind of a clear barrier between our spirit squads and the field. They are our greatest asset. #ProsecuteIanBook #CloseTheBookOnBook #BanBooks #ICantReadAnyway
- The intro video, again. It looked cool, but Notre Dame came out of the tunnel mid-video and the boos drowned out the sound. That said, the crew may need to push the levels on everything this season. The crowd is louder than last year.
- Army @ Michigan. GO ARMY.
- Ty Tyler. In a game with many defensive standouts, I did not hear the Marshall transfer’s name once. Would love to see him get some shine on Saturday.
- As our man Tom Farmer informed me, EKU has a couple of standouts. RB Alonzo Booth had a big performance week one against Valpo (Oooooooooooooo) and is one to watch, while Aaron Patrick is their stud pass rusher. Expect Mekhi Becton and Tyler Haycraft to keep tabs on him all night long.
- The crowd. PHENOMENAL job last week from the parking lots to the stadium last week. Obviously EKU ain’t Notre Dame, but I expect a happy crowd on Saturday, ready to cheer on a victory. IT’S BEEN A DAMN YEAR.
- Second half miscues. Hopefully this week we are up by several points and watching second string guys, but last week the team got tired and started to get a little sloppy. Hopefully this isn’t a theme with the lack of depth.
- Return Game. We are going to take one to the house soon, dammit.
- The third down music – I could take Three-6 Mafia ALL day long. They are Oscar winners, after all. Keep it up.
As I mentioned in the opener, this feels more and more like an opportunity to work out the kinks and develop some depth. We’re not Clemson, we can’t afford to take anybody lightly. And I don’t think we will. The Cards serve the Colonels a steady dose of the zone run stew with a few passes peppered in for flavor.
Louisville 48 – EKU 16
The weather sounds like it’s going to be perfect. Grab your family, get out and tailgate and enjoy that evening breeze at kickoff. Go Cards.
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