This week I got to sit down with @CardinaIStrong over at Card Chronicle. You can go check out my Q&A with them here. Bunch of good guys over there, much better than their head coach anyways.
Without further ado let’s get into it!
BSD: What’s been the biggest difference about this team since Wake played them last year?
One big thing that has somehow slid completely under the radar this season is that UofL’s previous quarterback, Lamar Jackson, is now no longer with the team. Crazy, I know. Not sure if you remember him, he was pretty good. He left college early to go make a better life for himself and his family and left behind a heaping pile of very nice young men who are just not playing good football. In all seriousness though, the QB position is inconsistent, the WR’s are under performing, the O-Line has forgotten how to block, and the defense has somehow regressed from a historically bad season in 2017. Other than that though, things are about the same.
BSD: Who do you look for to make an impact in this game on each side of the ball?
CC: Offensively for Louisville the QB play of Jawon Pass has been under the microscope since he took the role of starter back in January, but that’s to be expected trying to follow a Heisman Trophy winning QB. The bigger issue for me is that for the second straight season UofL has absolutely refused to establish any form of reliable rushing attack from a running back. We’re seven weeks in and the Cards leading rusher from the backfield has 36 attempts and 152 yards. IMO, Louisville has to create a threat on the ground and keep the Wake D honest in the trenches. If Petrino can’t get anything going up front I see another long day for Jawon, which may translate into another change at the position.
Inversely, UofLs defense has to try and stop the ground attack from the Deacs. Sam Hartman’s play at QB is inconsistent enough that I’m not sure he can single-handedly beat them meaning he will lean on Matt Colburn and Cade Carney to get the job done. If they let Wake run all over them (like they have most every other team this season) I can’t predict a positive outcome for the Cards. Look for DE Tabarious Peterson to try and create some pressure in the backfield. Oh, and a little insider tip for Defense Coordinator Brian VanGorder….maybe put a body on Greg Dortch.
BSD: What’s to be expected out of Jawon Pass now that we’re at the halfway point?
CC: [insert shoulder shug emoji] I really don’t know. I was fully prepared to blow the hype train horn multiple times this year for “the next Cam Newton” but it just is not happening. It would be one thing to see plenty of flashes of greatness that he can’t translate to any form of consistency but we’re not even seeing that. Petrino is much smarter than me, and he says he is seeing growth and maturity from Pass…me, not so much. He still has problems reading through his progressions, he is still very inconsistent with throws he should be making in his sleep (five yard out, wheel route, quick slant, etc) and he is still not making football smart plays, like taking dumb sacks or not hiting check downs in obvious blitz calls. He has been pulled from games multiple times this year for his play by the staff, yet he remains the starting QB as if there was never a question. Backup Malik Cunningham is very green but his style of play is similar to that of Lamar, which I think makes the fans more comfortable, but ultimately is not resulting in a more productive offense. I believe Pass has the talent to turn things around but he needs something to trigger that change.
BSD: What realistic expectations did the Louisville faithful have coming into this year, and well whats been hindering them?
CC: I do a Countdown post over the summer at ‘Card Chronicle’ and I took a pulse check with about 50 days until kickoff. At that time the majority of fans were in the 8-4 range with the bell curve trending towards a 7-5 season. I think most understood that the offense would take a small step back (even though Petrino said it may be better than 2017) but with a new DC and some new players becoming eligible (Rodjay Burns/ PJ Mbanasor) on that side of the ball many assumed the defense would have to improve from what we saw in 2017. Wrong on both counts. The offense preformed okay against Alabama in the opener but sputtered the next week in a monsoon, then sputtered in the sunshine, then sputtered on an overcast day…then we just realized the sputter was in fact a reality as to what this team is. The defense suffered a few injuries including two of their better players (Jon Greenard out for season and Dorian Etheridge missed a few games) but they just seem unprepared overall and lacking general enthusiasm about getting to play football. I think there is a serious issue with getting guys ready to compete every week and that is a problem that points to the staff…on both sides of the ball.
BSD: How big does the base/yourself think this game is relative to the rest of the schedule
CC: Honestly, this game is meaningless to most of the fanbase at this point but to me personally I’m putting emphasis on it because I’m not sure where we get another win the rest of the way. In my brain 3-9 sounds much better than 2-10 and not getting a Power 5 victory the entire season puts in you in rarified air nationally, taking the program back decades from what they’ve built. Many think “screw it, lose out and go get a new coach” but I’m focused more on the “today” aspect of the current situation. I’m still a fan and I’d much rather finish 7-5 and keep all the coaches than 2-10 and start over. I’m also likely in the minority…and I know 7-5 ain’t happening.
BSD: UL wins if they come out and do what?
CC: Establish the run with Hassan Hall or Trey Smith and give Pass enough time to complete the easy throws. I think the Cards have to post 35+ points to win this one as the defense will probably be a sieve once again to the Wake run game. If the offense struggles early I think there is little chance they can keep up on the scoreboard.
BSD: On the other hand what can they not do if they want to win this game?
CC: Let Dortch catch fire. Hartman has not played well enough this year for him to walk out there and drop Drew Brees numbers. I assume the rushing attack will get theirs no matter what, but if the Cards let Hartman play pitch and catch with Dortch it will be a long day and once again put pressure on the offense to score, score, score…something they haven’t done.
BSD: Does Louisville miss Matt Colburn?
CC: I’d take him. As I referenced above, it may be play calling, it may be the blocking, it may be the players, but the rushing attack from that position group has not been good. I actually really like Dae Williams but he has only got 22 attempts this year. Hassan Hall (true freshman) has looked okay this year as well but someone, anyone, needs to say “I’m taking over” and become the go-to option. Maybe Colburn would be that man.
BSD: How do you feel about motorcycles?
CC: I’m not a motorcycle guy myself. Very dangerous, especially with folks riding on the back. Although, I do hear chicks dig them.
BSD: Lastly, who wins, why, and score?
CC: For a reason I have yet to decide, Louisville gets their first ACC win on Saturday. On paper these two teams are equally unimpressive and I think playing at home, in front of an estimated 15,000 fans will provide a slight boost to the team and allow them to get over that hump. I think we’re in a shootout situation late and Jawon makes a nice throw to Jaylen Smith for a score to provide some separation. Wake still drops 300+ yards on the ground and Hartman plays well enough to keep it close. Cards win 38-28 and celebrate all week, ignoring any Clemson preparation, because really, why?
What do you guys think?
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