Paul Haynes has a connection to Louisville as he was the defensive backs coach under John L. Smith in 2002. Another connection could be made as he is the equivalent of Steve Kragthorpe for Kent State. Haynes took over a program that went 11-3 and hasn’t won more than 4 games since being hired. He also inherited some solid talent and did nothing with it. He will come to Louisville hoping that his offense can finally find the end zone against a FBS team.
The Golden Flashes run an option based offense out of the spread and don’t pass the ball very often. Nick Holley has been their starter but he left their game against Marshall with an injury and didn’t return. Holley has only attempted 20 passes this year but he’s averaging about 12 rushing attempts a game. Louisville will have to prepare for a lot of misdirection plays as well as an offense that will try their hardest to get 3-4 yard gains so that they don’t end up in third and long. If Holley can’t go, look for George Bollas and Dustin Crum to split time at quarterback. Both are a big step down because neither can run and pass. Bollas is a strong runner while Crum has completed 60% of his passes in limited time.
Holley is the key to this offense because he runs the option like a running back. He has good speed and runs very hard. When they’re able to execute, the option works very well for them. The issue is, of course, can they execute? Holley does have a solid arm if he can find an open guy and their play action designs are actually pretty good. I don’t know that they will look to pass the ball more because of UofL’s defensive issues, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they found some success if they chose to.
Justin Rankin is the starting running back and he shares the backfield with Will Matthews and Miles Washington. Kent State doesn’t run a traditional triple option with it’s formations but they do a lot of the same things. All three backs are interchangeable and will be the dive man or the option guy on the outside. None of the backs have shown much this year but they all have good size and run hard.
The receivers for Kent State aren’t utilized much but they will include them in the running game on reverses and jet sweeps. Mike Carrigan is a guy that stood out to me as the quickest player. These guys are mostly out there to block but if Haynes has any desire to actually keep this game competitive, he will have to at least try to get the receivers involved. Kavious Price is another guy to keep an eye on. He’s a smaller guy that can make people miss and create space for himself.
The offensive line for the Golden Flashes is big and slow. It really stands out on some of the outside misdirection runs they’ve tried. Their guards just aren’t quick enough to pull and get out in front of the play. They also haven’t done a great job of getting a push on interior runs. They’re not asked to pass protect too often but they had some real struggles giving Holley time against Howard two weeks ago so I would expect Louisville to have success rushing the passer. The offensive struggles lay mostly at the feet of the line and I don’t really see that changing this weekend.