To simply say that things are bad for the Louisville football program right now doesn't do the situation justice. The Cards are coming off of arguably the worst loss in school history, are the punchline of attempts at humor by every sports-loving American 20-something with a laptop and a thirst for a Deadspin link, and are now dealing with the side story of the dismissal of one of the team's highest profile players.
It's at about this point in every children's sports movie where the struggling team of lovable losers recruits or lands an amazing player who single-handedly turns the entire season around. Folks I have seen our Kelly Leak, our Adam Banks, our Matthew/Martha (Ladybugs), and his name is Mike Archer.
Archer, for those who were unaware or simply need to be reminded after years of taking his contributions to Cardinal football for granted, was the defensive coordinator at Kentucky under two separate regimes. Coaching under Bill Curry from 1993-95, Archer helped guide the Cats to a combined 11-23 record, and in '94 alone his defense gave up 47 points to Mississippi State, 52 to Tennessee, 59 to Indiana, and 73 to Florida.
Archer returned to UK in 2003 and somehow managed to produce even less impressive results for four seasons under Rich Brooks. His defenses allowed an average of 39 points in four straight losses to Louisville, and in his final season Kentucky ranked next-to-last in the country in total defense, and last in the SEC in rushing defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.
The next step for Archer, naturally, was the North Carolina State and the ACC.
The Wolpack are off to a 1-3 start with a lone win over Wofford, and have allowed an average of just under 35 points a game in defeat. Archer's defense has been surprisingly strong against the pass (Wofford QB Josh Collier tore up Appy State), allowing just 161.2 passing yards per game, good for 16th in the country. B.C. golden boy Matt Ryan managed just 142 yards through the air against the Pack on Sept. 8, of course the Eagles still rolled 37-17.
The real Mike Archer rears his head when you take a look at N.C. State's rush defense, which is giving up 247 yards per game on the ground and ranks 115th nationally. The Pack haven't held an opponent under 200 yards rushing all season, and the tandem of C.J. Spiller and James Davis led Clemson to a 340 yard performance on the ground in a 42-20 tiger win last Saturday.
Archer has brought more zone looks to a defense that played press man-to-man on nearly every down under former head coach Chuck Amato. The defense continually mixed coverages against BC to frustrate Ryan, playing zone about 60% of the time and man the other 40. The intellect and high football IQ of Brian Brohm figures to play a key role in Saturday's contest in Raleigh, as he is likely to receive the same treatment Ryan did.
There's no excuse for Brohm and the Cardinal offense not to put up at least 35 on an Archer defense. This is the same guy whose defense was down 31-0 to Louisville last season before the casual viewer had even turned on the game, and he's working with less talent now than he was then.
If Mike Archer can't save this season then no one can.