clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

#W2W4: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

The third week of What To Watch For is still searching for the same answers.

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

How Does Bobby Petrino Handle His Quarterback Situation?

I spoke about this a bit on Ramsey and Rutherford on Tuesday (Link below). Bobby Petrino needs to make a decision on his quarterback this week so that he can have an offensive identity headed into conference play.

Louisville has no clue what they are right now. Are they a pass first team that runs the ball to try to be balanced? Are they a team that will run the ball to set up play action? Are they a team that will utilize the short passing game as an extension of their running game? I don’t think they even knew the answer to these things going into the Alabama game and the ISU game threw in a new question with Malik Cunningham bringing back the possibility of the read option things that Lamar Jackson did.

As I said on the radio, Louisville should start Jawon Pass and stay with the plan that they started the season with. But, Malik Cunningham should be ready to go if things aren’t working out with Pass at the helm.

Tune in at 61:45 if you want to hear how I got Mike blocked by whoever runs Bobby Petrino’s Twitter account. Tune in at the 67 minute mark if you want to hear me nerd out about UofL football.

What Does WKU Do If Drew Eckels Can’t Go?

The Topper offense has been blessed with strong quarterback play for the last handful of years but they entered this season with some uncertainty at the QB spot. Drew Eckels had been waiting his turn as a fifth year senior but there was no way to know how he would play as a starter.

Eckels has been a pretty good bright spot for this offense. He’s thrown the ball fairly well but more than that, he has been able to add some read option aspects to the offense and he can extend plays with his legs. That has added a lot to this offense when things break down and things don’t go as planned. They don’t really have that in their backups.

If Eckels can’t go, I don’t know that the Toppers have anyone that can run this offense the way that they need it to.

How Does Louisville Fix Their Issues With Running The Ball and Stopping The Run

A big issue with Louisville football right now is how they are they are playing at the point of attack on both sides of the ball. The offensive and defensive lines have been plagued with inconsistency through the first two games. The offensive line has allowed a lot of penetration and it has made it much harder for running backs to get positive yardage. They’ve also had issues holding their blocks in pass protection.

The defensive line has also been very inconsistent against the run and the pass so far even though they seemed to pick things up in the second half of the ISU game. They need to be able to get a rush with four guys. They also need to be able to plug the middle of the line against the run to force teams to run outside. That’s where guys like Dee Smith, Khane Pass, P.J. Blue, and C.J. Avery can make plays.

So how do they fix these issues? By playing a team that can’t protect their quarterback, can’t run the ball, and can’t stop outside runs. Western doesn’t do any of those things well and Louisville really needs to get some confidence in those specific areas. They need to gain that confidence in the game and they need to see it on film. If they can have that success, it could translate to improvements going forward.

Western Kentucky Will Push The Ball Down The Field

I got to see a lot of what Mike Sanford likes to do on offense during my time watching Brian VanGorder’s Notre Dame defense. Sanford was the offensive coordinator there for two seasons and the offense was outstanding in 2015. That offense was ranked 84th in rushes per game. Even with that number, they were ranked 27th in rushing yards per game and 8th in yards per carry. C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams were just an unreal combination for that offense.

Where the running game really helped that year was with their down field passing attack. Will Fuller was one of the top receivers in the country and finished the year with 14 touchdowns and averaged over 20 yards per catch. He saw a ton of single coverage that allowed him to use his speed to get win those individual battles.

Western hasn’t established a running game year and it has hindered their ability to get the ball down the field for the most part. However, Sanford hasn’t stopped trying to hit those big plays. He designed some nice plays that Drew Eckels was able to execute early on in the Maine game. He hit Lucky Jackson for two long touchdowns. The issue is that most of the sacks he took in that game were due to the routes not getting open down the field. Teams have been able to keep safeties deep because they don’t have to help in run support.

Will There Be Major Personnel Changes For Louisville?

Louisville rarely updates their depth chart before a game. Jonathan Greenard was still listed as a starter last week, for some context to what I mean. So, each game we all get to find out if the coaches have decided to make some changes to the starting lineup when the game starts. It probably only annoys me, but at this point I’m pretty used to it.

I thought of this point when I saw that Florida State made a bunch of changes to their depth chart going into week three. They removed the “or” designations on almost all of their positions and they changed starters at some positions as well as shuffling backups. FSU’s season has been similar to UofL’s. They had a marquee game to start the year that they lost badly followed by a closer than expected win against a FCS team.

While I don’t expect to see the amount of moves that Willie Taggart has made down at FSU, I wouldn’t be shocked to see more of the freshman class getting snaps early in the game on Saturday.