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#W2W4: Virginia Cavaliers

The What To Watch For this week wonders a lot about what Louisville can stop and not what they can do themselves.

NCAA Football: Virginia vs Ohio Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

How Does Louisville Defend Olimide Zaccheaus?

Louisville’s pass defense has been uninspiring at best this year. In three games, they’ve allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 59% of their passes. If you remove the Indiana State game, that number goes up to 66%. Alabama started off this year doing what most expected them to do. Their receivers found space and just showed how much more talented they were. There’s not much that Louisville was going to be able to do about that.

However, Western Kentucky’s two backup quarterbacks completed two-thirds of their passes, which is better than their starter could do against Maine two weeks ago. The most worrisome part is that receivers have been able to separate from defenders to make uncontested catches. That will be a big issue if that happens with Olimide Zaccheaus.

Zaccheaus is a guy that was mostly used as a running back early on at Virginia. The goal was to get the ball in his hands and let him work in space. He is excellent at making people miss and he has speed to burn. He isn’t as talented as the Bama receivers, but he has the same type of skill set. Louisville will have to do some things this week to key on him. The other receivers on the team don’t have the big play ability that he does.

How Will Virginia Utilize Misdirection Plays Against Brian VanGorder’s Scheme?

I failed to mention this last week in any of the posts I wrote, but Brian VanGorder’s Notre Dame defenses often struggled with misdirection plays. I know I noted this at some point on Twitter but it somehow slipped my mind. So, when Mike Sanford called a fake dive play with a swing pass to the running back on the first play of the game, I really felt dumb. Sanford knows the defense pretty well as he coached at ND at the same time so I don’t think it was an accident that he went misdirection on the first play.

Virginia has used a ton of motion this year to open up running lanes for their running back and quarterback. They have also done similar things to the play mentioned above. They fake a run one way and swing it out to a receiver or back. I would expect to see them try to create more long plays down the field than WKU. I don’t think that Mike Sanford ever got to the point that he trusted his line last week. That’s why they didn’t throw the ball down the field more than a couple of times.

Virginia won’t likely be so worried with their line not holding their blocks on those types of plays. The issues their line has had is coverage sacks or when Bryce Perkins hasn’t been decisive. When they have done some of the misdirection things, the ball has gotten out on time and the receivers have executed the play very well. I would look for them to do the same things this week.

Louisville’s Read Option Attack Vs. Virginia’s Front 7

I didn’t expect to have to write about the read option much this year but it’s week four and here we are. I don’t think there is much of a chance that Malik Cunningham won’t be the starting quarterback this week so I expect a heavy dose of the offense we saw Lamar Jackson run.

Louisiville looked pretty good running the option over the last two weeks with Cunningham breaking some nice chunk runs and the running backs finding more space to get to the second level of the defense. They’ve seen a lot of success on the edges with Cunningham and I expect things to continue to look like what we saw against Western. One big concern so far has been the amount of times Cunningham has kept the ball when he should’ve given it. He will have to learn to slow down his thinking and make the right read. Putting this offense in long third downs isn’t a recipe for success.

The Virginia defense will be a pretty unique test right off the bat for Louisville. Chris Peace is a very athletic player outside and he can “split the difference” on those plays where he is the guy that’s being read. On the opposite side they have Charles Snowden who is 6-7 and super long. That length will obviously make it harder to run around him. With the size that they have inside, UVA has an ideal situation up front on paper. Executing things is a different story, though.

Bryce Perkins And Virginia’s Short Passing Game

Last season Kurt Benkert and his big receivers really liked to throw the ball down the field in their pro style offense. This season, things have been a little different as the offense doesn’t have an Andre Levrone type of player that can take the top off of a defense. Instead, the offense has worked in a lot more short routes all over the field. Evan Butts has been used pretty well at tight end on quick “stick” routes. Hasis Dubois has worked the sideline very well on comebacks and hitches. The goal seems to be to get the ball out quickly and move the ball down the field with balance.

Bryce Perkins hit on 83% of his passes last week. He completed passes to seven different receivers and spread the ball around to all areas of the field. Unfortunately for Louisville, they just allowed a third string quarterback to spread the ball around in the same way. This is definitely something to keep an eye on to see if Brian VanGorder has adjusted.

Louisville’s Energy After the WKU Debacle

We’re about to hit the quarter point of this season and it’s a fair question to ask if this team is truly motivated to reach their goals. They’ve given lackadaisical effort over the last two games with only a few guys bringing the energy and excitement that you would expect. Guys have lacked concentration and dropped passes, missed blocks, fumbled, and blown coverages. Those things wouldn’t be as bad if they were mistakes that were made because people were playing too fast.

This week, Louisville needs to be able to show that they can bring the energy they need to make the big plays when they’re there. They should at the very least make those mistakes going full speed.