There would be no miraculous comeback and second half heroics on September 17th, 2016 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.  The Louisville Cardinals annihilated the number two ranked team in the country like it was playing against its second string units in the Spring Game.  Nolenation is reeling this morning.  There is reactionary clamor about firing Jimbo Fisher, Charles Kelly, and Rick Trickett.  Some of the ‘Nole faithful are pointing to the fact that Jimbo Fisher is 6-4 over his last ten games, and his teams consistently start slow and show a lack of focus far too often.  While the questions about Fisher’s job security are premature and fueled by emotion, the slow starts and lack of focus that have plagued FSU since the 2014 season kicked off cannot be denied.  The ‘Cards came out and laid a beating on an undisciplined FSU team reminiscent of The Passion of the Christ.  

Let me break it down real quick.

Louisville’s execution yesterday was both violent and efficient, bringing out the inner puppies of Jameis Winston’s proverbial “dogs” from FSU.  Let’s forego statistics and look at what took place on the field Saturday at high noon.

On the opening drive, Lamar executes a perfect play action fake here and wound up hitting Staples down to the 2 which would set up Lousville’s first score.

Watch how he hides the ball a la Randall Cunningham.

While Lamar Jackson shows how to execute a play action fake, on the ensuing FSU drive, Francois does the opposite.  It appears Francois fails to sprint out after the play fake, dropping straight back and allowing James Hearns to destroy him from the backside pursuit angle for his transgression.  Forgive my awful grammar in the tweet, I’m still dealing with some personal issues and a hangover concussion.

Lousville stymied the FSU defense all day. One of my keys for how UL would achieve this, was the play of Josh Harvey-Clemons.  In our FSU preview podcast we discussed Harvey-Clemons’ new role in Louisville’s defense.  Here he comes upfield looking for contact, blows up his blocker and makes a great stop.

Another topic of discussion during our FSU preview was how Louisville could stop Dalvin Cook.  Keith Poynter asked me what Houston did so well to shut down Dalvin Cook in the Peach Bowl last season.  I told him they pinched down on the offensive line closing gaps for Cook to run through.  Here is an example of this.

Another key to stopping Dalvin Cook is getting linebackers to come up hill and hit him before he can accelerate.  This is a prime example of Stacy Thomas doing just that.

Sticking with Louisville’s defensive game plan, Kieth told everyone in the FSU preview podcast that he wanted to see Grantham put the heat on Deondre Francois consistently.  He got his wish, and Grantham brought heat from everywhere.  On this blitz, he dials up a nice inside stunt and forces an awful pass on 3rd down.

Now let’s look at how not to blitz by looking at the FSU defense.  Here Marcus Lewis telegraphed his intention to blitz, which Lamar Jackson recognized instantly and simply checked down to a wide open running back in the flat for a 3rd down conversion.

In the FSU preview podcast I praised Jackson’s ability to go through his progressions, here he exhibits good pre-snap blitz recognition.

Again we look at the FSU tape for an example of how to not do something. Watch Deondre Francois show his inexperience, failing to recognize Louisville had a numbers advantage on the left side.  He paid with pain.

While Louisville lived in FSU’s backfield most of the game, FSU struggled to dial up pressure.  This was in part due to good scheming and blocking by the ‘Crads as well as half-hearted efforts from FSU’s defense like this.

FSU’s offensive line on the other hand, was outclassed most of the day.

While some of the hits Francois took was on the line, some of them were products of bad scheming, as can be seen here.

Louisville’s defense looked far superior to FSU’s offense, but the ‘Noles made a lot of mistakes that helped the Cardinals defense look like the 2000 Ravens.

While the FSU offense was pathetic, the FSU defense was even worse.  When playing a read option quarterback like Lamar Jackson, every player has to play assignment football and maintain discipline at all times.  FSU has struggled against read option tempo offenses recently. See the 2014 ACCCG v. Georgia Tech, the 2014 Rose Bowl, the 2015 Peach Bowl, and the 2016 massacre at Papa John’s.  Once the read option gets rolling on the ground, the short passing game and quick hitters open up.  This happened against Oregon in 2014 and it looks like Bobby Petrino just used the Ducks’ blue print.

There wasn’t much bad footage from Louisville yesterday, but here FSU’s best run of the game, keyed by good assignment blocking and an open field whiff by Chucky Williams.

That play would lead to another miscue by Williams that let FSU cut the lead to 14-10.

While FSU failed miserably all day in all three phases of the game, Louisville got its first punt return touchdown since 2010 and this would crush any hopes of another improbable second half FSU comeback.

The only knock on Lamar yesterday is that he missed a few open receivers down field and he also forced a few passes against FSU corner Tarvarus McFadden.

He gets lucky on one, gets picked on the other.

The take away from this game is that Lamar Jackson being used in the read option attack is only one of the many ways in which Petrino can attack opposing defenses.  This is horrifying to think about if you are on the other sideline.  Just when you think you know the identity of the Louisville offense, it mutates like some sort of deadly virus that can’t be contained.

If you are a Louisville fan you can go ahead and beat your chest, point your finger indignantly at any naysayer out there and tell them without question, “we are for real.”  Yesterday Bobby Petrino, Todd Gratham, Lamar Jackson, and the entire Cardinal team put the nation on notice.  They are a legit title contender, and underestimating them is a foolish endeavor to trifle with.





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Dave Lackford

Prosecutor at JCAO

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