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Western Kentucky Defensive Film Review

Let’s go in depth on a game that was much too close for comfort.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

I compiled some defensive plays from the first half of the Western Kentucky game. If you’re interested in the offensive review, you can find it here.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, I pointed out that misdirection plays did a number on Brian VanGorder’s defense at Notre Dame. So it was no surprise that the guy that ran the offense at ND would go right to that on their first play.

The motion doesn’t really do much to move the defense but the fake to the dive man sucks in the defense and Stephen Duncan is able to get outside for an easy completion. This became somewhat of a theme going forward.

Something that stood out early was how much faster WKU looked when they had the ball. On this play Robert Hicks just can’t keep up with Garland LaFrance even though he has the angle. LaFrance is a burner but this is a simple sweep play and UofL can’t set the edge at all. This play just stood out to me because of how easily Western was able to get four or five yards on a simple play.

Here is a good example of something that has been going on in all three games and will be a huge issue against the rushing offenses Louisville will face the rest of the way. Guys are “catching” instead of tackling.

What I mean by that is that instead of getting in position to wrap up the runner and bring them down, or drive through the ball carrier guys are just absorbing the contact and holding on. While that’s not the worst thing in the world, it allows runners to fall forward and get more yardage. So a short run turns into five yards.

This is how Western had a 7+ minute drive for their first touchdown.

This team has to take advantage of every opportunity it gets this year. I think that Jawon Pass did that against Alabama and the Cards were able to get some nice plays in the passing game. Last week C.J. Avery made a really nice catch on a poorly thrown ball.

It might not seem like much but we all know that defensive players can have really bad hands but Avery caught this one like a wide receiver and made a nice return. Western had been moving the ball a bit and even a drop would have allowed them to punt the ball deep.

This play is another example of misdirection causing the defense issues. Robert Hicks and Tabarius Peterson get sucked inside for some reason and the back has tons of space to get to the edge.

The other issue with this play is Louisville’s inability to get off of blocks. Watch the two outside blockers for Western make contact and hold their blocks through the first down run. Some of the things I see are new or out of the ordinary, but chalk this up as one of those things that have been going on for a while now. At some point you want to see guys fight through blocks and make a play.

Some good things on this play and some bad. The nose tackle gets blown off the ball and the defensive end gets stood up and push back. But, the end holds his ground and squeezes the hole. That gets the running back thinking and he bounces it outside. That’s wen Dee Smith comes down and makes the play.

The safeties have been a solid bright spot and it is really good seeing Smith get downhill to make plays on the edge. Having some consistency there is nice because this team hasn’t seen that since James Sample was here. It’s also nice to see guys get in on this play to secure the tackle. That energy is what they need going forward.

VanGorder really liked to drop Sheldon Day into coverage when he was at ND and that has continued at UofL. Jarrett Jackson drops into coverage on this play with Chandler Jones blitzing off the edge on the other side. Western picks it up and Davis Shanley makes an easy completion. There’s not much that Jackson can do differently here, but it’s a good play to highlight a unique thing in the scheme.

Another thing that jumped out to me on this play that I saw a handful of time was the safeties being slow to rotate after the offense motions. It didn’t impact this play but it is one of those things that they need to iron out. In an ideal world, both guys would know what to do on this call if there’s motion across the formation. As of now it takes a good amount of yelling and pointing.

I’ll flat out admit that I am a huge TreSean Smith fan and I think that BVG needs to find a way to get him on the field more often. I think that will happen if London Iakopo ends up missing significant time and I think he’ll shine out there. He is the exact type of play maker that this defense needs. He showed that he can do it last year as a true freshman and he’s already made plays in limited time this season.

It’s also nice to see Hicks react a little more quickly to this play. Hopefully things become easier for him as he gains more experience. If Smith doesn’t make this play, Hicks is there to possibly bring the runner down.

The first touchdown was pretty frustrating. Western didn’t do anything special here but they scored really easily. They went five wide and run hooks to one side with a wide receiver screen to the top. Shanley saw that no one was covering the tight end and delivered the pass.

This was one of a good amount of plays where guys were scrambling to get lined up. Avery comes outside late and TreSean is still directing traffic when the ball is snapped. I’m not sure if that led to him slipping but I’m also not even sure if everyone was in the right coverage. Just another thing that needs to be ironed out going into Virginia.

This was the play directly after the fourth down stop and it shows why you don’t put your defense in this position. Western had been setting up play action all game and they were able to hit it here. Cornelius Sturghill gets faked out by the receiver faking a block. He nearly recovers in time but the throw is on the money.

Bobby Petrino probably should have seen this coming with the way that WKU was running the ball all night. You could also make an easy argument that UofL coaches should have (and probably did) let the defense know to be on the lookout for these types of plays.

This is a perfect play by Tabarius Peterson. He splits the difference and then uses his length to make a play on the quarterback. I know that I sound like a broken record but Louisville needs guys to make plays for them. Those impact plays that require a guy to use some skill. This is that type of play. This puts the offense in second and long and impacts everything they want to do over the next two plays. Getting tackles for loss or run stuffs are big for this team.