We evaluate 42 football stat categories each year at TheCrunchZone.com. When we study the yearly data within these categories it becomes striking how every UofL Football team that takes the field each season strengths and weaknesses can change dramatically and some categories seem to always remain about the same……
But in 2018 everything changed. The DNA of Louisville Football was morphed into something that didn’t resemble anything that came before it. What does that mean for projecting the 2019 season????? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Do we throw out all of this data from a year ago that saw the exit of Bobby Petrino and hope that UofL football will progress towards its mean? Or is the program in a deeper more tenuous position that will require years of excavation?
(As you go through the stats keep in mind that 130 teams played FBS Football in 2018. We’ll go through these in more detail as we go through the pre-season)
Exceptionally Good (National Rank 1-10)- 1 stat category of 42
- Punt Returns – 8th
Punt Returns were the only Top 10 category for UofL Football. The hat goes off to Rodjay Burns, but Rodjay only was able to field 13 punts in 2018. So while this is a great stat, it also underscores a bigger problem for the Cards. Louisville Football couldn’t get its opponent to punt the ball to a major weapon and had just 13 returns on the season (Burns had all of them) while its divisional opponent Clemson fielded 42.
Very Good (National Rank 11-30) – 1 of 42 stats
- Field Goal % – 19th
Blanton Creque made the most of his opportunities last year….. but he only had 12 attempts and made 10 field goals for the Cards. Divisional opponent Syracuse had 34 FG attempts in 2018.
Good (National Rank 31-45) – 3 of 42 stats*
- Kickoff Returns – 33rd
- *Passing Defense – 40th (*this stat lies, see Rushing Defense…. no one needed to throw the ball on UofL)
- Blocked Kicks – 45th
We won’t spend too much time on Kickoff Returns and Blocked Kicks. Both qualified as good metrics for Louisville Football and certainly played a role in field position….. but the Cards lost 10 games. Field position didn’t matter… and they certainly had a lot of practice in fielding Kickoffs with how often opponents scored a year ago.
Lastly the Passing Defense metric is a two-fold lie. 1) Teams didn’t need to throw to win on the Cards last season, Georgia Tech amassed 542 yards and attempted just one pass against Louisville last season and 2) Louisville only being 40th in Passing Defense is just a sportsmanship stat because teams only had to play 2.5 quarters of winning football before they just ran the ball and ran out the clock and got on Delta to go home.
Average (National Rank 46-60) – 1 of 42 stats
- Opponent Field Goals -59th
Needs Improvement (National Rank 61-75) – 3 of 42 stats
- Opponent Kickoff Returns – 69th
- Red Zone TD % – 70th
- Time of Possession -73rd
Certainly Louisville has some TERRIBLE stats coming in this article but one area of optimism is that as bad as the offense was in 2018 it wasn’t completely abysmal in the Red Zone. In fact, 2018 was the 5th best TD % in the Red Zone in the last 11 seasons for Louisville Football so maybe this is something to build on.
Bad (National Rank 76-85) – 3 of 42 stats
- Fumbles Recovered – 82nd
- Fumbles Lost – 82nd
- Kickoffs – 83rd
As we get into the bad components (and there are some just embarrassing stats coming) Fumbles Lost actually made dramatic improvement in 2018 and they were still 82nd. Louisville Football lost more fumbles during the 2nd tenure of Bobby Petrino than any other program during 2014-2018 and this is one of the few stats in 2018 that was trending in the right direction…. if 82nd in the nation is in the right direction.
Very Bad (National Rank 85-99) – 4 of 42 stats
- Punting – 88th
- Passing Offense – 89th
- Opponent Punt Returns – 90th
- Red Zone Scoring % – 95th
I was really surprised to see Punting fall into the “Very Bad” range and that doesn’t seem fair to Mason King. King seemed to bail out the Cards a great deal…. but the stats are the stats. Also coupling Punting with opponent Punt Returns in the “Very Bad” range is a recipe for disaster….. but the Punting game wasn’t the story for Louisville Football in 2018.
Passing Offense & Red Zone Scoring % being 89th and 95th (of 130) ordinarily set of alarm bells for Louisville Football…. and they still do. The Cards look like they are going to come back with Jawon Pass at Quarterback and will return a great deal of the Offensive Line and Wide Receivers that made up the passing game. The Cards are going to need a reliable passing game and they are going to need to score points in the Red Zone. But the next category really illustrates the complete overhaul that this program is going through at the moment.
Exceptionally Bad (National Rank 100-130…Last) – 26 of 42 stats
- Rushing Offense 102nd
- Opponent Red Zone Conversion – 103rd
- 3rd Down % – 105th
- 1st Downs Gained – 106th
- Total Offense – 109th
- Opponent 1st Downs 109th
- Red Zone Trips – 110th
- Interceptions Lost – 111th
- Interceptions Gained – 112th
- Opponent 4th Down % – 114th
- Opponent Red Zone TD % – 119th
- 4th Down % – 120th
- Penalties – 121st
- Scoring Offense – 122nd
- Total Defense – 122nd
- Fumbles Forced – 122nd
- Opponent Red Zone Trips – 122nd
- Tackles for Allowed – 123rd
- Turnover Margin- 125th
- Sacks – 126th
- Rushing Defense – 127th
- Tackles for Loss Gained – 127th
- Sacks Allowed -128th
- Scoring Defense – 128th
- Passes Defended – 130th
- Opponent 3rd Down % – 130th
Personal note: I’ve never seen anything like this with Louisville Football. I called 2018 Louisville Football the Roger Dorn of College Football and I stand behind that statement.
Louisville ranked last in Passes Defended and stopping opponents on 3rd down. UofL allowed 51.85% of 3rd Down attempts and then allowed 66.67% of 4th down attempts. So if you wanted a first down you got it against UofL last year.
Here are the list of the worst stats in the last 16 years (it’s how far back I bothered going) just within the program that the 2018 Louisville Football team will undoubtedly forever own: Scoring Defense, Total Defense, Rushing Defense, Sacks Gained, Tackles for Loss Gained, Interceptions Gained, 3rd Down %, Opponent 1st Downs, Turnover Margin, Opponent Punt Returns, Penalties, Passes Defended, Fumbles Forced, Opponent 3rd Down %, Opponent 4th Down %, Tackles for Loss Allowed, Opponent Red Zone TD %, Opponent Red Zone Trips, and Red Zone Trips Gained.
Honestly I have two takes regarding the overwhelming Exceptionally Bad stats of Louisville Football in 2018:
- There is no way it can be any worse
- How can the fans trust the individuals in the program that allowed this to happen?
It’s so clear that the coaching staff had to go. 2-10 and being in the Bottom 30 of 26 statistical categories (and probably more if we keep digging) is unacceptable, embarrassing and the fans that support this program didn’t deserve what happened on the football field last year. If we are to believe that there is talent within the program then there is a mountain of unrealized potential on this roster (only because zero potential was realized a year ago).
The good news is that a change was made. It appears from the outside looking in that Scott Satterfield & Co have steadied the boat and are making progress….. but how much progress is needed? Will 2019’s team quit when it goes down by two scores? Will it fight back? Will 2019 play with pride? Will they play for each other? Will 2019 play for its coaches? Its fans? FOR THEMSELVES?
I don’t know. I can honestly say I never would have believed that Louisville Football would have a season like it did in 2018 when the PRIDE was totally discarded. I don’t know what 2019 is going to look like but hopefully it isn’t a team avoids contact, that gives up when things get tough, that gives up on itself, its teammates, its coaches and its fans.
Hopefully Louisville Football Plays for the Other 10. Plays to honor each other, to honor their families, this school and our city. We’ll see, but they’ll have to show us who they really are in 2019.