The Louisville Football team has averaged 24 turnovers per season since joining the ACC in 2014. That average would have been the most in the league in 2015 and it is higher than their total amount of turnovers in the 2012 and 2013 seasons combined. The Cardinals have finished the season ranked 101st or worse nationally in turnovers lost in all but two seasons since joining the ACC and they are sitting at 123rd as I write this. This football program just doesn’t value the football and it’s the reason that they haven’t gotten over the hump and reached their true potential.
The first time I thought to myself that a guy didn’t value the football was back when Eric Dungey was playing at Syracuse. I watched him play each week and every week he threw into coverage and refused to protect the ball as a runner. It was as if he didn’t realize that the ball was the most important part of the game.
I’m bringing it back this year as the 2020 Louisville football team has shown that they do not value the football in any way. Not only has Malik Cunningham one interception from doubling his total from 2019 but he’s fumbled the ball away multiple times this season. While the interceptions are a glaring issue, the amount of lost fumbles by the offense are the key, to me.
Louisville has fumbled the ball 13 times this year and they’ve lost 9 of those fumbles. To me, that shows that Louisville ball carriers are fumbling the ball with multiple defenders around them. That’s the time when you should be most concerned with ball security but we’ve seen time and time again where guys are getting stripped of the ball in a crowd.
We all know they’re not being coached that way. Javian Hawkins didn’t lose a fumble last year. The App State Running Back group didn’t even fumble the ball a single time in 2018 while being coached by Stu Holt who now coaches Tight Ends at Louisville. This team doesn’t value the football because the evidence shows that they’re ignoring their own coaching. It may be to make a bigger play but as I said before, the ball is the most important part of the game.
This isn’t a new problem for the program. That average of 24 turnovers per year was helped by last season’s 19 turnovers and even this season’s 18. Louisville hit 30+ turnovers once under Bobby Petrino and came close to that in two other seasons. I used to keep a running tally of how many games they played where they didn’t turn the ball over. But those teams had really good defenses early on and Lamar Jackson down the stretch. Lamar Jackson isn’t walking through that door.
Petrino’s teams were able to overcome the turnovers because they had one of the best players ever. But they still never got to 10 wins with that player. They beat themselves a lot and this current team is looking like a 3-4 win team because they don’t have what it takes to overcome all of the turnovers they’ve had.
We all watched a team in 2019 that not only didn’t beat themselves but they were able to create some turnovers to balance the margin. Without that happening consistently this season, it’s an even bigger issue that the offense can’t hold onto the football. ShaDon Brown is known to say that the ball is money but the defense is coming up broke this season.
The 2019 season showed that this coaching staff can get more out of this program than the talent should allow. They started three former walk-ons regularly while utilizing big plays on offense to to outscore the opposition. They were also able to wear teams down with a strong running game. While we haven’t seen as many big plays this year, the offense is still averaging 6.78 yards per play. That’s up from last season.
The difference is the turnovers and it’s a fixable issue. It may not happen this year but turnovers always have a bit of a luck factor. The rate of lost fumbles is abnormally high and the defense improving will likely help take some pressure off of the offense in the future.
The culture of this program is being built around accountability and teamwork. I think that’s the cure to what ails this program. At some point you have to hold guys accountable when they do things that hurt the team. We see it off the field all of the time and I truly believe that the off the field accountability helped UofL win games last season. For whatever reason, that hasn’t translated this season.
Is it all of the extra things guys are having to do to stay healthy and protect their teammates and staff members? Maybe. I tend to think it’s the pressure to show they’ve improved. Backs are fighting for extra yardage and getting stripped. Malik has forced the ball into coverage a handful of times. Defenders have also dropped easy interceptions.
This is not a bad football team. It’s a good team that is playing poorly. That’s why this season has been so disappointing but it’s also why I think they can fix this as a program. Finding a way to not beat themselves is the key. If the ball is money, value it like you’re broke.