LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-1, 1-1) vs. KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES (1-2, 0-0)
Game Time: 12:02 p.m.
Location: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: Fox Sports Regional/Fox Sports South in Louisville
Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play), James Bates (color), and Rebecca Kaple (sideline)
Favorite: Louisville by 44
All-Time Series: Kent State leads 9-8
Last Meeting: Kent State won 10-3 at Kent State in 1973
Kent State Depth Chart:
About Kent State:
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.
Paul Haynes’ background is as a secondary coach and he has fielded a team at Kent State that is definitely better on the defensive side of the ball than offense. Haynes has a couple of players that can make plays and he gets good effort from his guys. The Golden Flashes are coming off of a solid defensive performance but they’re going to have their hands full against an angry Louisville team.
The first player that jumps out at you when you watch Kent State is Jon Cunningham. He’s a defensive tackle with a big time motor. He’s a stout player at six feet even but he plays strong and he has long arms. Cunningham is the exact type of player you need when you don’t have a lot of talent. He runs down plays well down the field and doesn’t loaf when things aren’t going well. The line as a whole does a pretty good job of keeping blockers off of he linebackers but they aren’t guys that get a lot of penetration.
The Kent State line isn’t overly impressive but they do pursue the ball well and they have some high motor players. They’ve made a couple of plays behind the line this year and are at their best against straight ahead plays. Louisville has pass protected well and I would expect that to continue against Kent State. They don’t really have the athletes to crash the pocket or to run down Lamar Jackson.
Kent State will blitz some and will show different things at the snap to try to confuse the quarterback and offensive line. Matt Bahr had a nice game against Clemson in the opener but he missed their last game. This group can run a little bit but they’re really undisciplined and get out of position a lot. None of the linebackers wow you in coverage either. I would expect them to make some plays against the run but to have some real issues with option plays.
The best group on the defense is the secondary. Demetrius Monday is an impressive player at cornerback. Monday had six interceptions two years ago and was named first team All-Mac. He picked off a pass last week and had a PBU against Clemson. The Golden Flashes play a 4-2-5 and because they bring pressure at times the corners are left on an island some. Louisville should have some opportunities to push the ball down the field but I wouldn’t be surprised if their defensive backs make a play on the ball. Right now, Kent State is ranked 10th in the country in passes broken up.
One thing that Kent State has going for them is a good amount of speed in the secondary. While they’ve given up too many big plays, they’ve also been able to stop a couple of them from being touchdowns. One of those plays was catching Travis Etienne from behind in their first game. We all saw him outrun Louisville’s secondary after breaking a tackle last week so we know catching him isn’t an easy task.
Excitement Level: 5.7
Just being honest here. Pretty dramatic step back. Still Louisville football though.
Game Attire: Black tux
In a wedding for a groom who is very happy about the way that U of L’s 2017 football schedule wound up looking.
Pregame Meal: Chick-fil-A
Does every male wedding party get Chick-fil-A for their pre-wedding hangout? I feel like they do. It’s like a solid 85 percent for the weddings I’ve been in.
Bold Prediction: Louisville holds Kent State to single digit points
Not bold when you look at the Flashes’ offensive numbers. Very bold when you look at the Cardinals’ defensive numbers.
Zykiesis Cannon Interception Alert Level: Canary (low)
These dudes don’t put it up much. Not feeling it.
Predicted Star of the Game: Reggie Bonnafon
This winds up being the shining afternoon of Reggie’s senior season.
Motivational Opposition Tweets:
I haven’t seen a single Kent State player mention Louisville by name. In fact, you hardly see any of them even discussing football.
—Louisville is 10-0 in home games against MAC opponents since 1965, and 20-4 in home games against the conference overall.
—Kent State’s Paul Haynes, the fifth-year head coach, served as the secondary coach at Louisville in 2002.
—Bobby Petrino is 23-6 all-time in September games, including a 12-3 mark at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
—Louisville is 77-25 all-time when playing as a team ranked in the AP top 25.
—Louisville is 12-2 in non-conference home games under Bobby Petrino.
—Kent State fifth-year senior quarterback Nick Holley and junior linebacker Matt Bahr are out with knee injuries. Holley had rushed for 207 yards and a TD and passed for 106 yards with two TDs. Bahr, a converted safety, had nine tackles in the opener against Clemson and is KSU's No. 6 tackler with 13.
—Louisville has achieved at least 500 yards of offense in 11 of its last 16 games.
—Kent State is 12-26 all-time against current ACC teams.
—Since 2013, Kent State 9-1 when scoring 27 or more points in regulation and 4-36 when falling short of 27 points.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 215 games dating back to the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the third longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
—Louisville is 178-11 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-104 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“We’re not where I thought we were as a football team. But it’s a long season ahead of us, a lot of games ahead of us, and we have a lot of work to do. The most important thing for us is to get better from here on.” —Bobby Petrino
—"It's never easy to get over a loss, but some things you just have to let go. We have a whole season ahead of us, we still got a lot of games to play, there is a lot of ball to be played." —Charles Standberry
—“I told these guys you can’t go into a game like this trying to get drafted. This isn’t a game where, ‘I’m going to get drafted off how I play against Louisville.’ You’ll end up screwing it up anyway.” —Kent State head coach Paul Haynes
—“We know what (Lamar Jackson)’s accomplished. We’re not going to look at it as this giant, but we’re going to go out there and play. … We’re not going to look past the job that we need to get done. We’re going to look at it as a regular game. We know what kind of game it is and we have to go in with a level head.” —Kent State cornerback Demetrius Monday
—“My confidence is always high. I think we just had a bad game. It’s football. It happens.” —Charles Standberry
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 56, Kent State 6
Let the healing process begin. Or something.