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The WynnedBag: Week Seven

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Surprisingly, I didn’t get many questions about the defense this week.

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

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I don’t think it’s imagined at all that Louisville is not taking advantage of the middle of the field. They’ve hit some throws there but they’ve avoided some plays that worked last year. They did a good job with “Mesh” last year. It’s a play with crossing routes at about 5-7 yards that I absolutely hated when Bobby Petrino called it. But Satterfield mixes it up well by using different guys and different formations to disguise it. It worked pretty well last season but I don’t know that I’ve seen it called this year.

They have focused on the middle of the field when taking shots down the field, however. I’d say that’s a bit of a problem. They’re trying to target opposing Safeties and it hasn’t worked all that well. I would love to see them take some shots down the sideline to Dez Fitzpatrick and Justin Marshall. Both are bigger guys and Dez has outstanding ball skills and can make contested catches.

Louisivlle has guys that can make plays but they haven’t done a good job of utilizing them so far. Marshon Ford has taken advantage of his opportunities but UofL needs to start using Tutu as a decoy more often. In the two minute drill before halftime of the Notre Dame game, you can actually see ND players bracketing Tutu and leaving Dez open to make the two catches he had to get them into field goal range. This is all about the will to make adjustments to what they’re doing on offense.

I think there’s still a bit of an issue with Bryan Brown getting plays in on time. It wasn’t an issue at all against ND and I think that was a factor in how the defense played. Guys were in position and they were ready when the ball was snapped. There have been times over the last year and a half where guys were still looking at the sideline when the ball was snapped.

Pace seems to be an issue for Louisville and I think the late calls are a factor. I do wonder if simplifying things helps the defense overall. They didn’t seem to do anything special against ND and it worked out well. They had some issues getting off the field but they slowed down an explosive running game and shut down a passing game with veteran players by doing some simple things. Against Miami they were using a lot of twists and different things to try to get penetration up front but when they’ve been good on defense it’s been pretty simple.

I think we’ll see more trust in the secondary going forward which should help improve things. The defense gave basic man looks against ND but mixed in zone as well as man coverage. That made Ian book hesitate some and then the pressure got home. UofL will probably continue to struggle against mobile Quarterbacks because most teams do. But they did show last weekend that they can match the coverage to the pressure and either get sacks or force incompletions. That’s a big positive if they can continue to do so.

I think that Malik has two key issues that are holding him back this year. The first issue is his indecisiveness. He’s just not cutting it loose like he did in the second half of last season. I’m not sure if this is a real issue when it comes to the throws down the field but it’s definitely noticeable on some of the roll out passes they’ve called. early in the ND game last week he just ignored Marshon Ford as he ran wide open right in front of him. I don’t know if it’s him looking for the big plays too often or what but it’s hurting the offense.

The other issue is a continuation from last year. He’s keying on Tutu Atwell too much. If it’s third down you can bank on him at least looking his way first. If I’m noticing it, so are defenses. UofL needs to find a way to draw up opportunities for other guys or they need to use other guys on the plays where they’re looking to get the ball to Tutu. Teams are doubling him just like they did at times last year. Someone else has to be open.

UofL is doing a poor job of hitting on plays that are designed off of other plays. The wheel route against Notre Dame that led to a touchdown was a perfect example of what they need to do. They’ve been running the same bootleg play over and over again this year and it hasn’t always been successful. But the action of the play forces the defense to react and that’s what we saw last week.

Louisville created big plays last year. What’s been frustrating this season is that they seem to be operating with the mindset that the big plays will just happen. They’re not doing anything creative to get guys open. They had a ton of success forcing teams to load the box and then exploiting matchups where Tutu was matched up with a Safety. That’s not really an option so far, so they need to adjust.

One thing I saw when I watched App State games after the hire was Satterfield getting single coverage outside and taking shots down the field outside. They just don’t seem to have the appetite to work the sidelines with Dez Fitzpatrick. The first play of the Pitt game was great even though it was called back. You have Dez in single coverage which is an advantage the vast majority of the time. That’s what they had with Corey Sutton at App and he led the conference in yards per catch. We just haven’t seen them look to do that here for whatever reason.