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Thoughts from Section 224: The Kent State win

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Go Cards.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t perfect, but it was the game that we needed. After the tough loss to Clemson, having a bad Kent State team come to town was just what the doctor ordered. Obviously, a loss like that sticks with you. What if we played a tough ACC team and came out flat, and suddenly that one loss turned into two? I know, no excuses. I don’t use them. I know that you have to be able to rebound from a loss and come out the next game and perform. But that was a lot of buildup and then a draining loss to the defending National Champions. To be able to get back on track with a 42-3 win was good. It wasn’t a flawless game, but nevertheless, the Cards are now 3-1. Here are some thoughts from the game…

First of all, I will preface everything with “Yes, I know it was Kent State.” When you come into a game as a 44 point favorite, it’s not really a game where you will find out a lot about your team. If you do everything right, it’s because you are the far superior team. If you screw up, it’s magnified because of who you are playing. It’s really a no-win situation. You just want to get the win (convincingly), stay healthy, execute some plays while working out some kinks, and get younger guys some game reps.

The Squirrel

We might as well start off with what got the biggest ovation of the day. This little fella only had eyes for the endzone and never looked back. Hearing Sean Moth provide play-by-play in the stadium was amazing. The place went nuts. Little did we know that after seeing how wide open he could be on his way to the endzone, the Florida Gators offered him a one day scholarship and invited him to Kroger Field that night.

Lamar the passer

I feel like if they really wanted to, Louisville could have scored 60 points and Lamar could have run for 200 yards. But what good is that if you really don’t get better at something? There were several plays where it looked like Lamar had an open field to run and would only have to make one or two guys miss and he would be gone. Instead, he stayed in the pocket, went through his progressions, and found the open man en route to 18/22 passing for 299 yards. He only rushed for 34 yards. I think that anytime they wanted to, they could have had him roll out and he could get whatever yardage he wanted with his feet. I would rather see him complete passes and get other receivers involved with Jaylen Smith out, and that’s exactly what happened.

Wide Receivers blocking

Whenever we see big runs, it’s easy to just credit the running back or offensive line. But there were some plays where Louisville’s wide receivers made some great blocks downfield to help make the big play. In the first quarter, Traveon Samuel took the ball on a handoff on 2nd and 12 and rushed for 15 yards. Reggie Bonnafon and Dez Fitzpatrick made great blocks to assure the first down. Two plays later, the same duo helped Malik Williams score on a 33 yard touchdown run as they had guys blocked all the way inside the 15 yard line.

Offensive line was...decent

I only counted one false start. Lamar got sacked one time, but for the most part, he had plenty of time to pass the ball. Those are the positives. The negative would be the running game. Malik Williams averaged 5.2 yards per carry, which is great. But if you take away his 33 yard touchdown run, his average was 1.75 yards per carry. We know he is better than that. He had no chance on the 4th down that the Cards couldn’t convert. You have to be able to run the ball and overpower teams like Kent State. It didn’t really seem like any running back had open lanes at the line of scrimmage. I like the pass protection. The run blocking concerns me. That has to improve, and soon.

Defense was solid

When you face a team that runs the option, you have to be disciplined, and Louisville was. Kent State was able to manage 139 yards rushing, but it took 54 carries to get there, just an average of 2.6 yards per carry. They were never a threat to throw the ball, as they only completed 2/5 passes for 11 yards. Yuck. The concern here was that they seemed to have the most success when they ran up the middle, especially with backup QB Dustin Crum. Crum was the leading rusher with 62 yards on 18 carries.

It was good to see young guys get meaningful snaps. True freshman Russ Yeast started at cornerback and returned a couple of punts. Freshman Dorian Etheridge led the Cards with nine tackles and two were for loss. Freshman C.J. Avery recorded six tackles. Freshman Tabarious Peterson had five tackles. Sophomore Jonathan Greenard had two sacks. Sophomore G.G. Robinson had five tackles and one for loss. All of that is encouraging.

Turnovers

Four turnovers and a failed 4th down conversion. Ugh. Lamar’s first interception was a perfect pass that Dez Fitzpatrick just didn’t catch. Unfortunately, that stat goes on Lamar. His second interception, however, was absolutely his. I think he was trying to hit Traveon Samuel and just overthrew him. It was just way off, and we aren’t used to seeing that from him. He also had a fumble on a run, which hopefully isn’t a thing we have to worry about, but maybe it will be again.

Chalk these up to lack of focus? Maybe. Two of them happened right after Louisville went up 21-0. I know, I know. How could they lose focus after what happened last week? You tell me this: did YOU overlook Kent State and know that Louisville should dominate this overmatched team? I did. We are allowed to think that way and look ahead because we don’t play. But the players are human, believe it or not. 18-22 year old human beings. I coach high school kids. You can hype up an opponent all you want. They know how good or bad the competition really is. You can’t always fix that. You can’t always make them play Kent State like they are playing Florida State. Human nature kicks in. Focus seemed to go out the window for a couple of possessions. If you can win these games by 39 and still have things that need to be worked on, it’s a good thing. Get this stuff cleaned up for next time.

Then the fumble by Josh Johnson was frustrating because it would have capped off a 99 yard drive by Jawon Pass on his first drive. Speaking of Puma...

Jawon Pass

I don’t know what to think of a quarterback that doesn’t throw an interception on his first collegiate pass. I mean, Teddy and Lamar did. Puma did not. I don’t know what this means for his career, but we will find out. I would have liked to have seen him play sooner, a lot sooner. Pass got in on Louisville’s first possession in the 4th quarter and Louisville leading 42-3. I would have been fine with him playing the entire second half. Louisville led 28-3 at halftime. It’s not baseball, you can put guys back in after you take them out. Lamar could have gone back in if needed. But I suspect that Coach Petrino had things he wanted to work on with Lamar, maybe run some plays that they needed to sharpen up. I will defer to the guy that makes millions to make football decisions. I will just type my thoughts.

When we finally did get to see him, Jawon “Puma” Pass did not disappoint. His first drive started from his own 1 yard line after Russ Yeast tried to do a little too much on a punt return. Rather than run the ball from the 1, Bobby Petrino dialed up a passing play for the youngster, and he completed it for eight yards to Josh Johnson. He finished the game 5/8 for 75 yards, a very good debut.

What impressed me most about Pass was his second play from scrimmage, and he didn’t even throw the ball. He changed something at the line of scrimmage. Now I don’t know if he changed the play or just the direction of the run, but he made a change that resulted in a 21 yard rush by Colin Wilson. It’s this kid’s second collegiate play and he recognizes something in the defense to make a change? Yep, that’s pretty awesome. Count me in for wanting to see Puma start and just move Lamar to wide receiver for the rest of the season. Relax, I used the sarcasm font there.

What’s next?

Murray State comes to town and to be honest, it should be another game where Louisville is a 40 (or so) point favorite. What I hope to see is less than four turnovers. None would be nice. I would like to see Jawon Pass play more than one quarter just to see him get some more game action.

Louisville should take care of business and improve to 4-1. Hopefully, the starters get a lot of rest in preparation of a very short week and a trip to NC State on Thursday night. That game got a lot more interesting after the Wolfpack beat Florida State this past weekend. They are the first team receiving votes right outside the AP Top 25 and they host Syracuse this week. A win should put them into the Top 25 when the Cards head to Raleigh.

I said it last week and I will say it again. Find a way to win that game at NC State, come home and beat a bad Boston College team, and you are 6-1 heading to Tallahassee to face Florida State. Who knows how good they even are at this point? There is a lot of football left to be played. Just keep winning and getting better.

As always, Go Cards!