Louisville football spent the first half of the season playing against the very top offensive teams on their schedule. Notre Dame, Boston College, Clemson, and Wake Forest are all either ranked in the top four or five in the conference or would be if Notre Dame counted as a true ACC team. Virginia does not have one of those types of offenses. In fact, they have the opposite. Virginia has one of the worst offenses in Power Five football, statistically. Louisville will have an opportunity to have some advantages on defense for the first time in about a month. They can’t allow Virginia to find it’s way on that side of the ball against them.
The quarterback position is the key for Virginia right now with Byrce Perkins accounting for most of what they do on the ground and in the air. Perkins leads the team in rushes per game even if you take out the sacks and Virginia doesn’t do nearly enough to get other people involved in the offense. It’s very similar to what we saw with Lamar Jackson where it was him making a play the vast majority of the time. Perkins came into the season with high expectation after outperforming most quarterbacks in the country down the stretch of the 2018 season. He hasn’t met those expectations but I think that’s mostly due to the guys they lost at the skill positions. Perkins is having to do a lot and teams are able to do a lot of simple things on defense to contain him because there’s not a lot of help around him.
Virginia really misses Jordan Ellis at the running back spot. They are barely getting four yards per carry from Wayne Taulapapa. This is the key spot where Perkins is being leaned on too much. Perkins was able to run the ball well last year off of their called running game as well as his scrambles. This year, no one is really respecting their running game so Perkins doesn’t have as much space. Taulapapa is a similar back to Ellis so I’m not sure why they aren’t running him more but I think he should probably be getting more than 11 carries a game.
Joe Reed has done a really good job stepping up this year as the “jack of all trades” type of player that this offense has had for a few years now. Reed will take jet sweeps, and other hand offs as well as doing some “wildcat” stuff from time to time. He has also become a three level receiver who can catch the quick screens as well as work down the field and be a deep threat. Reed is the most consistent threat to take a short play and turn it into an explosive play.
The other threat on this offense is Hasise Dubios. He only has two touchdowns on the season but he is a legit deep threat. He also has good enough speed to run away from guys on Louisville’s defense. Bryan Brown used some double teams against Clemson to try to take away Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins on third downs. I’d assume he will do the same this week. Disguising those coverages should work well again this week and you can bet that Perkins will be looking for one of these guys when he drops back.
Virginia’s offensive line is a little younger than what Louisville has seen so far this year. They have done a solid job of protecting Perkins even though they’ve given up 22 sacks on the year. Perkins holds the ball too long on a regular basis and that’s caused a lot of those sacks. From what I’ve seen, they don’t do a great job against interior rushes. Louisville should look to push the pocket up the middle. They definitely don’t run block very well. The running lanes are very tight and these guys don’t do very well when it comes to getting to edge and second level defenders. Louisville needs to stop the run and put this offense in long third downs. They handled those well against Clemson and should do the same this week.