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What To Watch For: Kent State

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This week’s #W2W4 focuses on some areas where Louisville can improve.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

NEW WRINKLES ON DEFENSE

At this point in the season I think it’s fair to say that the defense has played at a level that is much less than ideal. Louisville fans are accustomed to seeing an aggressive defense that puts pressure on the offense as a whole. Under Peter Sirmon, the defense has been very conservative and ineffective. The pass defense ranks among the worst in the country and Clemson showed that the run defense wasn’t as good as the numbers would lead you to believe.

What I think we will see against Kent State is some run blitz type of things that will bring players downhill against the run. The linebackers have been playing the run for much of the year but they’re playing it by stepping into the line and “catching” blockers. What we need to see is guys hitting the line of scrimmage hard and disrupting run plays. We should also see safeties “filling” into run lanes on the edge. James Hearns, Trevon Young, and Khane Pass have done pretty well to set the edge but no one is coming up to fill that running lane that opens because of that.

While we may not learn a lot for the long run in this game, it would be nice to see that it is possible for this defense to play fast and aggressive.

MISTAKE FREE FOOTBALL ON OFFENSE

Louisville has played well on offense this season but they still haven’t had a game where they have been mistake free. I’d love for Kent State to be the first game where penalties, drops, turnovers, and blown assignments just don’t happen. The Golden Flashes are not a complete pushover team but they aren’t a team that should cause execution issues.

One area that has frustrated me is the missed blocking assignments. I think the line has played much better and this isn’t me trying to find a reason to bash them. It’s me hoping that they can get over the hump. Lamar Jackson allows for some mistakes because things get covered up, but if the line can get some of these little things cleaned up they can really be a strength. I think that would be a big for them for the rest of the season and beyond.

WILL BOBBY PETRINO PULL HIS STARTERS EARLY?

It appears that Bobby Petrino doesn’t like to take out his starters in games where Louisville doesn’t have a chance to win. He kept his starters in against Clemson and he did the same last year in big losses to Houston and LSU. Typically the offense throws in the white flag so to speak by bringing in their backups and the defense follows suit. Clemson brought in their backups anyway and Louisville padded some stats.

Personally, I would have liked to see how some of the backups ran the offense or how they played on the defensive side of the ball but I’m not the coach. This week, Louisville should get out to a sizable lead early and they will have the opportunity to get some game experience for backups. I would really like to see them in a position to have the starters play one or two series in the second half and then they can sit.

Puma Pass, Corey Reed, Josh Johnson, Caleb Chandler, Colin Wilson, Emonee Spence, and Cole Bentley are among the young guys on offense that I would love to see get on the field. If Louisville isn’t going to redshirt them, they might as well get them on the field. I’d also like to see Russ Yeast and Cornelius Sturghill get some extended playing time to get some actual tape for the coaches to work with them on. Practice reps are good but getting out there in real full speed situations is the best way to learn. C.J. Avery is another guy I’d like to see as it appears that he may have moved to middle linebacker from the Star position.

CAN KENT STATE’S DEFENSE HAVE ANOTHER STRONG PERFORMANCE?

Kent State is coming off of a game where they were able to hold a solid Marshall offense to 5 yards per play. Kent State was able to do so even though their offense wasn’t moving the ball at all. While they don’t have the athletes to keep up with Lamar Jackson, they do have some solid players in the secondary who could make a play or two. They also have guys that play with good effort and won’t just look at this as a game they’re supposed to lose.

Against Clemson, Kent was able to get 4 tackles for loss and they picked off Kelly Bryant in the red zone on a very well defended slant route that bounced into the air and was grabbed by a defender running to the play. While they’re not going to be able to stop Louisville, they could make a few plays to give themselves something to build on.