Louisville cruised to a 44-7 win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday. In previous years, such an easy win would have been cause for celebration, especially considering Louisville struggled with this same EKU team in 2010. But with the Cardinals being ranked in the top 10 and with rival Kentucky on the horizon, some folks walked away from the game worried that Louisville struggled to run the ball effectively against the Colonels and that it portend bad things against Kentucky and down the line.
After charting the game for SB Nation's Football Study Hall, fans are being reasonable in wanting to see improvement in the running game, but they shouldn't be worried. Louisville didn't get much production from the running game mostly because it didn't try to.
Below is a table with every running play Louisville ran in the game (I've removed both sacks and quarterback scrambles from the table to just let people focus on the running plays and their result).
A few obsevrations should help people people feel a bit better about the running game. First, the gameplan itself couldn't have been more vanilla nor could it have deemphasized the running game less. Louisville only ran the ball a total of 27 times (compared to 40 attempts against Ohio in the opener). Of those 27 rushing attempts, Louisville ran 16 of them on regular ol' first and ten. Additionally, Louisville only ran the ball on consecutive plays 4 times in the entire game and it never ran the ball three plays in a row.
The gameplan was clearly to let Teddy get his numbers and to play vanilla football against an overmatched opponent. The gameplan worked and it did negatively impact the rushing game. Just about one-third of Louisville's rushing plays come inside the EKU red zone. With the field contracted and the three of the deep pass taken away, Louisville ground game was easier to attack. Also, Louisville ran the ball quite well in the first half when there was some sense the game was in doubt (15 attempts for 76 yards, 5.06 yards per carry).
So should Louisville fans be worried about the running game heading into Kentucky? Probably not. The Cardinals have rushed for a combined 400 yards against Kentucky on just 86 carries in the past two seasons. The expected right guard, Kamran Joyer, returns to the lineup this week, and this Kentucky defense gave up 216 yards rushing to Western Kentucky in the opener. The running attack won't be nearly as predictable against Kentucky and the Cardinals at full strength should have success on the ground.