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Music City Bowl Film Review: Fourth Quarter

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Mississippi State vs Louisville Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

They always say “better late than never” and I’m taking full advantage of that saying. There are some really specific things that Louisville was able to do in the bowl game that give me hope that things can progress next year.

There are also some glaring things that have to improve for this team to be able to be more than an 8-win team or a team that struggles to finish games. It does seem like mostly everything is fixable so that’s a positive sign.

I appreciate you guys reading/watching these film reviews all season.


Micale Cunningham truly looked like the quarterback I never thought he would progress to in the bowl game. MC has always had trust in his legs and for the most part, he trusted his legs much more than his arm. That wasn’t the case in the bowl game as he saved his legs for designed runs and kept his eyes down the field when he escaped pressure. It’s a mindset change that could help him explode as a quarterback in 2020.

As for this specific play, it was obviously absurd that they didn’t review this play for targeting. Justin Marshall is a runner here but the defender leads with his helmet and launches. If the refs decided they didn’t see that on the replay it would be one thing. Not even taking a look at it is ridiculous.


Scott Satterfield had the best redzone offense Louisville has fielded in at least a decade and I wouldn’t be surprised if the touchdown percentage is one of the best in school history. Plays like this one are why the offense was so hard to stop. There are too many things going on for the defense to react to.

First you have this run heavy team blocking like it’s a running play. That includes linemen blocking to the second level. They allowed to do this because the pass is behind the line of scrimmage. This play is essentially a tight end screen from the eight yard line with Isaac Martin getting out in front of the play and Devante Peete pushing the cornerback into the end zone. Ford does the rest on his own. This is a similar look to the RPO that Evan Conley scored on against Wake Forest but it’s a play off of it instead. Cunningham gives the defense enough pause that it allows Ford to use his speed to get to the edge. Really loved this play.


Louisville had a strong day containing MSU’s talented running backs but they had a few too many plays like this one where the run fits didn’t look right. The defensive line isn’t slanting here. You can see that all three players get up the field with G.G. Robinson taking on an initial double team. T.J. Holl takes on the gap to his side of the field which makes sense. However, C.J. Avery loops in behind him for some reason.

It’s possible that Khane Pass is supposed to fill the backside gap here but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Avery is crossing over the play here where all of the gaps appear to be filled. Pass would be the guy responsible for being the “extra” guy that reads the play and reacts. It seems odd to me that Avery would be used that way. Either way, it’s the type of play I feel we saw too often this season. One has to hope that a second year would help clear up some of these things.


Mississippi State does a really nice job adjusting to Louisville’s nonstop pressure. They run a pick route that forces Isaiah Hayes to either go over the receiver here or try to sneak under. He makes the right call to go over to make sure that he’s in position to make the tackle but then he misses the tackle.

Here’s what I’d love to see next season. Hayes running directly through this guy guy knowing that he has the sideline to help him. UofL had a tendency to over play guys in the open field instead of playing them inside out. Hayes should be getting back to being inside the runner here. That give him a chance to drive him out of bounds or into the ground. At worst, the runner picks up a couple of yards and gets the first down. There were a lot of little things that seemingly could improve with coaching.


Poor tackling started to show up in the fourth quarter and it really stood out to me. This isn’t due to guys being tired. UofL’s offense sustained drives and the pass rush was still getting home or forcing some discomfort on a lot of throws. This is just guys putting forth a poor effort to bring the runner down after the catch. Four guys miss tackles on this play and Holl is the only one that actually makes a real effort out of the four.

The defense gave up some garbage points late but this could have been a dominant effort if they kept the same energy they had in the second and third quarters.


I’ve been killing the defense but this is what they need from Chandler Jones. He plays this really well and Stephen Guidry shows why he was the tip ranked JUCO receiver in the country two years ago after being a big time recruit in high school. But Jones forces a very nice catch and Boosie Whitlow is there to force a really athletic spin move.

Whitlow probably needs to make this tackle or at least be in better position to not allow this spin move but Jones going for the PBU here is the key. He’s in position to make this play because he doesn’t bail out when the receiver pushes up the field. He then breaks on the ball and tries to extend to get a hand on the ball. If he gets a hand on the ball here it would be one of the better plays he’d have made all year. The throw had to be perfect and the receiver had to have some serious size to shield him here. Sometimes you just get beat. But Louisville’s corners should be trying to make this play as much as possible.


I’ve clipped a lot of these tackle for loss plays but each one of them seems noteworthy to me. Dwayne Ledford’s philosophy is very straightforward and it starts with firing off the ball. This line never got to the point where we saw that consistently. Caleb Chandler gets smoked here at the snap because the tackle just beats him to the spot. That blows up the entire play as Marshon Ford is headed to the edge here and Javian Hawkins would be looking to run off of his hip. #52 takes away that path and Hawkins gets swallowed up.

The line obviously killed it this year with the running game finishing in the top 30 in the country. Fix this type of stuff and the team rushing rankings will look more like Hawkins’ rushing rankings.


Let me start by saying Rodjay Burns dropped the bag here. This is an easy pick-six and I hope he was sufficiently ridiculed by his teammates.

The bigger thing about this play is Bryan Brown layering his coverage while looking to confuse the offensive line with a four man rush. While I have no clue what the right tackle is doing on this play, the twist on the other side helps to get the right end around the edge to put pressure on the quarterback. The coverage is great because it keeps enough guys right at the first down marker while dropping guys deep in thirds. You can see T.J. Holl take off down the middle of the field at the snap. Every zone is covered with all eyes on the quarterback. It allows Burns to jump this throw.


This was one of the best runs of the game for Hawkins. It was also a run that really showcased Hawkins’ speed. I’ve been a bit bullish on his breakaway speed as he’s been caught from behind a couple of times but he looks like a flash on this run where he doesn’t have to make a cut. I also love that he doesn’t try to make a move on the safety here. He knows the guy doesn’t have a chance to get to him so he gives a simple stiff arm and makes sure he picks up his feet. It reminded me of his first long run against Notre Dame.

The line opens up a massive hole for him on this play. Tyler Haycraft and Robbie Bell wash out the defensive end while Cole Bentley does a great job to seal his guy. Then you have a nice wrinkle with the play design. Marshon Ford runs a route into the flat and you can see that he pulls the outside linebacker with him. In all, the run action to the left pulls the two inside linebackers while Ford pulls the outside linebacker. The double team takes out the only player left in Hawkins’ path and he does the rest.


Scott Satterfield goes back tot he play he called on the goal line with space to show it as a RPO. Micale Cunningham has the option to hand it off if the end stays outside but as he crashes he pulls it. He then has the option to throw it out to Ford in the flat as the outside linebacker ends up with a free run to him. I tend to think that we’ll see more RPO in the offense next year with all of spring and fall practice to work on it and the full summer to add to the playbook.

It’s also seems like Marshon Ford’s youth has been understated a bit even though I know that UofL fans are really excited about how he played this year. He’s not just a former walk-on but he’s a freshman who was getting his first snaps in college this year. We still have a few years to watch him develop as well as watching the coaches work to find new ways to allow him to make plays like this one more regularly. This is a three yard play that he turns into a thirteen yard play. The potential is really exciting.


I’ve never seen it before but Louisville did this offensive line shift a few times this year and the results were great each time. MSU tries to shift with the line but they don’t get enough width and Louisville is unbalanced after the shift. They have more blockers than they have defenders and that’s why Marshon Ford doesn’t have anyone to block. I love stuff like this because I always imagine the coach that comes up with it pitching it in a coaching meeting and everyone giving them a blank stare. Plus you have the players running it in practice. It’s just not normal. But it works.

The seniors had so many big plays in this game and I love that Haycraft got to make the big block on this play. #52 had a career game against UofL and he has an opportunity to blow this play up. Haycraft does a good job to get his head across here which allows him to get his hips around and he seals the edge. A great way to go out as a senior.


I’m not able to bypass someone impersonating Calvin Pryor so we’re going to wrap up the 2019 film reviews with CJ Avery trying to murder someone. Hopefully we see more of it next year.