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The WynnedBag: Week Six

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I don’t think things are as bad as they seem. I explain why below.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As always, send your questions via Twitter (@keith_wynne), email (keithwynne2@gmail.com), or send them to the Card Chronicle Facebook page messages.

I don’t think there’s much of a chance of Bryan Brown being replaced unless the defense reverts back to 2018. As of now, Louisville has improved in some areas compared to last year while they’ve regressed on third downs and they’re still allowing too many big plays. Is Louisville’s defense “good”? Not by any measure. But, they’re not nearly as bad as some people are making them out to be on the defensive side of the ball.

UofL is creating more negative plays than they did last year and they’re vastly improved against the run. They’ve gone stretches in games where they have gotten stops but they just can’t get off the field consistently. The bad moments they’ve had are legit and I can understand the thinking that they’ve somehow gotten worse from last year but the data doesn’t show that. What it does show is that this defense has to be more consistent and they absolutely have to get off the field on third downs. It doesn’t matter if you force third downs when you just allow a first down half the time.

This defense was bad against Georgia Tech and I do have a bit of a concern that things could snowball but I don’t think there’s any reason to think that that game wasn’t the anomaly. take out the three busts against Miami (I know you can’t just take away plays but hear me out) and UofL held their first three opponents to 5.05 yards per play or less. They only did that three times against FBS teams last year.

I don’t know that they will look good against a strong ND offense but I just don’t see this huge regression like some do and I don’t know what changing coordinators would do. The staff has openly said that they need to get a few recruiting classes in to get the defense where it needs to be. We’re 1.25-ish years into this rebuild as I’m typing this. I don’t think it would make much sense to make a change at this point.

Recruiting. Attrition is also a big factor but I think that typically traces back to recruiting as well. It’s been well documented how poorly UofL’s recruiting balance was under Bobby Petrino but it should be noted that plenty of guys either transferred or left the team for whatever reason. In some cases it was just a poor evaluation and in other situations it was off the field issues.

Louisville signed 5 players who played Safety in the 2016 and 2017 classes. None of them still play here and only one finished their career here. The next two classes only had one player who played Safety and Trennel Troutman hasn’t been able to find a home between Safety and Outside Linebacker yet. That leaves the 2019 class that had to get a grad transfer in Isaiah Hayes and the freshmen on the roster now.

Most of the players that transferred are watching football on their couch on Saturdays and the others haven’t found much success at their new programs. When you miss as much as they did on defense, you end up with big gaps from a personnel standpoint. It leads to a lot of frustrating plays.

My one concern with Bryan Brown’s defensive scheme is that they really struggled to get sacks at App State in 2018. They brought pressure at times and they sat back in coverage other times but it worked for that defense. It hasn’t worked so far for UofL. Louisville hasn’t been able to match their coverage to their pressure and I honestly don’t know how that improves.

UofL is slightly behind their average in sacks per game and QB hurries per game compared to last year. They seem to be doing well when it comes to getting the Quarterback to move his feet and even to throw the ball earlier than they want. The issue is that when that happens the coverage is a step behind and receivers are able to make the catch and typically it’s for a first down. When they sit back in coverage, Quarterbacks have had to hold onto the ball because guys are covered but the pass rush doesn’t get home.

What I would like to see is a change in passing situations where UofL plays with one Safety and adds a third Cornerback when they play their base defense. I’d also like to see them play four corners in their “Money” package and maybe even play five corners and one Safety. They only have one Safety that can cover. Playing three of them doesn’t really make much sense to me. Then they have to keep trying different pass rushers until they find the guys that work for them. I think they have options but they just haven’t found the right group yet.

From David via Email:

What are the top 3 things we need to do to have a “fightin’” chance to beat Notre Dame? For me I think it is: 1. Win the turnover battle; 2. Limit yards after catch to less than 50% our season average; and 3. Find a way to get Dez Fitzpatrick the ball more.

I would say that you nailed it with number one and number three. The turnovers are the key reason that UofL is 1-3 in my opinion. They beat Pitt if they don’t turn it over and I think the Georgia Tech game goes differently if they hold onto the football and score more touchdowns and don’t give up 19 points off of turnovers. So they definitely have a chance if they can hold onto the ball and also force a turnover or two.

UofL also has to spread the ball around. They have more options than Tutu Atwell and they need to start utilizing them. Dez Fitzpatrick has shown that he can make plays at all three levels of the defense and getting him the ball more often only helps get Tutu more room to work with. It’s a win-win for the offense, especially when the run game is working well.

The only thing I would change is the second point. I think UofL has to slow down the ND run game and force them to throw the football. ND hasn’t shown they can beat anyone with their passing game alone and even though Louisville hasn’t had much success stopping big plays, you have to make ND prove they can do that. If the Irish can run the ball successfully, UofL won’t have much of chance of winning this game.