CRAWFORD | Pre-snap read: Five things that would point to progress for Louisville vs. Kent State
What would constitute a successful performance against an overmatched Kent State team? Eric Crawford has five things, to start.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After three weeks of Power 5 opponents, including a particularly powerful one in defending national champion Clemson, the University of Louisville football team welcomes Kent State to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium at noon today.
Kent State is not powerful. In fact, in its two games against FBS opponents, it has failed to score a touchdown, losing 56-3 at Clemson and 21-0 at Marshall. There are only 25 teams in the nation who rank below Louisville in total defense. Kent State is one of them (so is North Carolina).
So what constitutes a successful game for the Cards? What do you need to see against an overmatched opponent (Louisville is a ridiculous 44-point favorite.
Here’s what the Pre-Snap Read needs to see to call this one a success:
1). KEEP THE GOLDEN FLASHES OUT OF THE END ZONE. The Cardinals have faced three good offensive teams this season – one reason they’re giving up 36.7 points per contest, 105th nationally.
But they need to do what Marshall and Clemson did before them to inspire any kind of confidence that the defense has made progress on its various issues during the week following a Clemson blowout win on the Cards’ home field.
2). EXECUTE IN THE RED ZONE. The Cardinals have made 16 trips into the Red Zone this season and scored 13 times, which doesn’t look too bad. But only eight of those scores have been touchdowns, and that 50 percent TD rate is tied for 98th nationally.
When you give up points the way Louisville is giving them up, you need to come away with six a little more often than half the time.
It seems Red Zone situations are when defenses lock in on Lamar Jackson even more than usual, meaning that he and the coaching staff have to find a way to get the ball to others and out of the way of oncoming defenders headed for Jackson.
3). SHOW SOME FIRE. This is a tough game to get up for. Not only are you favored by 44, but you’re coming off a disappointing blowout loss in front of your home fans and a national television College GameDay audience.
We’ll find out a little bit about this team today, what it’s made of, what it’s pride level is. When Bobby Petrino said he thought his team lacked the confidence to beat Clemson last week, it signaled to me a little something wrong with its psyche and leadership. That shouldn’t be the case.
Petrino said his team had a good week of practice and has responded well. That needs to carry over to the field.
4). USE SOME YOUNGSTERS. Most teams play an overmatched opponent somewhere in the first three games just to get young players onto the field and to ease them into playing situations. Louisville hasn’t had that luxury.
The Cards’ were favored big over Purdue, but it was a ballgame the entire way. And North Carolina and Clemson were no situations to experiment.
Now, Petrino can get a look at some young guys and go deep into his roster to see how different players respond to game situations. He'll have no choice at wide receiver. Top receiver Jaylen Smith will miss today's game with an injured wrist.
“It's important for us to continue to develop depth,” Petrino said this week. “Like Cole Bentley hasn't been in a game yet. We've played three really good games, three Power 5 teams. Most other teams in the country haven't. And we're going to continue to do that. That's what our conference is going to be doing in the years ahead of us -- open the season with tough games, big match-ups. What it doesn't allow you to do is get guys in and play and make mistakes and learn and grow from it. So we've got guys like Russ Yeast who needs to get out there and play a lot, Cole Bentley, Kemari Averett, need to play and get used to the speed of the game. Guys that are talented who can help us as the year goes on, I think it's real important to bring guys along. We need Kemari to really learn how to play the game at this type of level. He's got the unbelievable talent to do it and now he needs to get the reps and work at it.”
This includes using quarterback Jawon Pass, who didn’t get into the game against Clemson despite it being a blowout at the end. Jackson had plenty of three-quarter outings early last season. This needs to be another one.
5). RE-ESTABLISH JACKSON. Lamar Jackson really hadn’t had an “off” game over the past season until Saturday’s loss to Clemson. He’s been hitting a number of receivers all season and making better – if not perfect – reads in the run game. This game is a chance to just get him back on track.
A good measuring stick would be 70 percent accuracy passing the ball, and one 100-yard rusher in the game – who isn’t him.
Jackson is a motivated guy. His desire to bounce back big shouldn’t be a big concern for the Cards.
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