The team’s around the country are heading into the conference grind. This is where the rubber meets the road and it takes another level of play. The Louisville program has made some huge strides over the last couple of weeks and can take another big step forward on Saturday afternoon.
The Louisville offense found another gear taking out Eastern KY 42-0 and Western KY 38-21. Benefitting from some big passing plays in their win last weekend they’ve now scored 80 points across their last two games.
We’ve seen different offensive players breakout in the games with FSU. I go back as far as Dave Ragone and Joshua Tinch. Ragone completed 15 of 27 passes for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tinch was Louisville’s leading receiver with 101 yards on 5 receptions in that program defining win in 2002.
And most recently was the Heisman performance of Lamar Jackson in 2016. Jackson ran for 146 yards and four touchdowns. He threw for 216 and another. Don’t think any of us will forget that performance and College Gameday win against FSU.
Now a new group of Cardinals hopes to leave their mark in this game. Malik Cunningham posted 119 yards and two scores in the backup role last week. Even tho Jawon Pass is expected back on Saturday I think we’ll see Cunningham on the field in some capacity.
Javian Hawkins led the rush with 93 yards and a score. TuTu Atwell led the receiving corps with 141 yards and three TDs on four grabs last weekend. I can guarantee these guys will play a role in the outcome on Saturday.
The Cardinals are sixth in the nation in scrimmage plays of over 50 yards with four, and 11th in the nation in plays of 40+ and 30+ with six and 10, respectively. Tutu Atwell is tied for the national lead with three plays of over 40 yards and is tied for third with a pair of 50-yard plays from scrimmage. Javian Hawkins is tied for first in the country with three runs of over 40 yards in the first three games this year.
The defense will also be key… Without the Anthony Floyd interception of Chris Rix’s pass in the overtime in 2002 and Jaire Alexander’s big plays in 2016 we might be talking about different outcomes of those games.
The Louisville defense has looked impressive in the first three games of the year, holding opponents to an average of 18.7 points per game and 285.0 total yards per game. The Cardinals held the Colonels to just 74 yards in the second half, including just six passing yards after the half.
A new group of defensive guys is also looking to leave their mark on this game. Russ Yeast and Chandler Jones have solidified the Louisville secondary this season. Yeast and Jones are tied for fourth on the squad with 12 tackles. Up front linebacker Rodjay Burns continues to excel in Bryan Brown’s defensive scheme. Burns is tied for first on the team with C.J. Avery and Khane Pass with 16 tackles this season. Look for these names to come up a lot if the Cards are having some success on Saturday.
This game Saturday afternoon will basically boil down to speed on speed. The Cardinals will be facing some really good opposing players. FSU QB James Blackman has thrown for 843 yards and nine scores in the first three games and is completing 68.2 percent of his throws.
Tamorrion Terry is their top receiver with 14 receptions for 234 yards and one score, while Cam Akers has already rushed for 387 yards in the first three contests, an average of 129.0 per game. Like Louisville, this FSU team can put up points fast and I think the Cards will have to absorb an initial explosion.
FSU defense not so much. They are near the bottom of the national statistics in total defense, allowing 485.0 yards of total offense and 37.0 points per game to start the season. Cory Durden leads the Seminoles with 2.5 sacks, while free safety Ham-sah Nasirildeen is the team’s top tackler with 28.
Like many of you, I have been impressed with the last couple of weeks and a bit surprised. I think most of us hoped that these guys would play hard for the new staff but didn’t expect this level of play so early. The Cardinals are heading into Tallahassee with some newfound pop. These games against FSU have been transformational over the years. A win Saturday would mean a lot to this groups progression and a potential Bowl bid.
Louisville’s last road win in the ACC was a 31-28 victory at Florida State on Oct. 21, 2017. I really like our chances. Think these are programs going in very different directions. Win or lose I’m just looking forward to seeing what this team has for the ACC. Enjoy it, folks! Go Cards!