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Western Kentucky Film Review: First Quarter

A rough start by the offense overshadowed an outstanding start from the defense.

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Mississippi State vs Louisville Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports


Louisville had a bit of a rough start to this game. On the first play, They get these blocked fairly well but part of that is Cole Bentley using a take down to handle an undersized Linebacker.

Robbie Bell was the guy that stood out to me when I watched it live and on my rewatch I figured out what went wrong. Bell comes out of his stance a bit high and that allows the Defensive Tackle the ability to get into his pads and push him into the backfield. The only positive here is that Bell is strong enough to gain control and get a seal. That wouldn’t have happened in the past.


This play is a good example of how good DeAngelo Malone is and how he impacts the game. This is a normal play that UofL runs a good amount. They run play action off of inside zone and try to sneak Tutu Atwell behind the defense. It goes as planned until Malone rushes Micale Cunningham and forces him to move his feet.

What jumps out is that Malone actually pauses because of the fake like you want to happen but he is so explosive that he closes on Marshon Ford in a flash and then he uses his length to overpower him into Cunningham's space. We all know that Ford is an outstanding blocker but it didn’t even matter here. Malone stops a long touchdown because Tutu is already running away from the double coverage.


Adonis Boone had a rough first quarter. He is slow to get his head inside here and by the time he even notices the Linebacker, he’s past him and on his way to Javian Hawkins. The guy he’s supposed to block ends up making the tackle and the play goes for negative yardage.

It’s fair to wonder if this play is doomed from the start but I think Hawkins is at least back to the line of scrimmage if this is blocked at the point of attack. Caleb Chandler also falls down here and misses his block. This was one of the plays that seemed to demonstrate the line not getting much push.


The staffed couldn’t stop talking about Braden Smith this spring and I really want to commend Gunter Brewer for keeping a straight face every time he mentioned Smith giving them an option when they go four-wide. How do you not let a smile slip when you know you have this potential?

Boone does a good job here forcing Malone wide and past Micale. The rest of the line gives him a nice pocket to throw from. Tutu Atwell is the key on this play because they’re using him as a key for the read. Tutu is running a route that is a threat because it’s enough to get a first down. That forces the Safety (#2) to give him his attention. Once he runs with Tutu, Micale knows that he has Smith on a Safety or a Nickel. Advantage Smith.


Louisville followed up the first big play with another play where one of their stars is used to force the defense into a decision. Dez Fitzpatrick runs the submarine crossing route that we’ve seen Tutu run a lot and the corner to the top of the screen keys on him. Tutu is running a deep cross down the middle of the field which helps to hold the safety. Ean Pfiefer is left wide open because no one is looking at him.

It also shouldn’t go unnoticed that Dez’s half motion leads to the defense rotating a safety into the box. This looks like a run formation in every sense. It packs in the defense and once the ball is snapped, the defense has to figure out who has who and by the time anyone makes a decision it’s too late. It’s like trying to coral a jailbreak.


This was Louisville’s first play on defense and I think it really encapsulated how they played throughout the whole game. Rodjay Burns comes off the edge and does a great job “splitting the difference” and then getting flat once he sees the handoff. CJ Avery just flies through his gap and nearly kills Gaej Walker before he goes down. Then you have Yaya Diaby discard his blocker like it’s nothing to establish the edge.

Three guys get in to make this play and only one of them gets touched at all. A really good example of what they need to see from the run defense.


This was an interesting play and something that stood out with D’Eriq King on the schedule next. Louisville’s slants to the left up front and then the two middle linebackers stack through the gap that should be left. The draw play is pretty much the perfect call against this because Jared Goldwire gets doubled and it opens up a backside running lane.

I don’t know exactly what Isaiah Hayes’ assignment is here. My assumption is that he’s a spy and the little step to his right that he takes puts him out of position and he has to chase the play. I think that if he plays this more to the middle of the formation, he would have been able to get there more quickly and stop this play for a short gain.


This play gets blocked much better than the early runs we saw. Cam DeGeorge is in at Left Guard on this play and he does a good job to chip the guy in front of him and get to the second level to get a seal on the backside Linebacker. His chip allows Cole Bentley to get around and the Defensive Tackle and seal the inside. Adonis Boone does a good job to kick out the end and Ford gets through the hole to get a hat on the front side Linebacker.

All of that creates a slim lane for Javian Hawkins to run through. They ended up getting a good amount of these types of run on Saturday night. Not big chunk runs but solid gains for five yards or so.


I’m not going to say I’m concerned but this is something we saw from the defense last year that you want to see improve. WKU runs a play action pass to the left and Avery bites on it. But then he ends up in quicksand. Everything flows to the right, including the Quarterback. He has to get moving much more quickly to get into his zone. A solid QB would complete this pass and they’re at least getting a first down. If he gets to his zone here, Kinnaird maybe gets a sack or the QB forces a pass and someone might get an interception.

It’s a relatively small thing, but it’s how this defense goes from being “solid” like I think they will be and “good” like they could be.


This defense is all about disruption and Avery blows this play up before it gets going. He’s shot out of a cannon at the snap and the guy that’s supposed to block him barely touches him. This is the type of instinctual play Avery and Etheridge have to make.

Now watch Isaiah Hayes at Safety. There’s no pause or false steps. He reads run and he fills his gap Avery shoots his gap and Hayes is the next gap over. This play has no chance of working unless they miss the tackle. One of my favorite plays of the entire game.


During the game I tweeted that the defense had given up two big plays and both lacked a pass rush. That wasn’t true on this play as Jared Goldwire gets penetration and combines with Tabarius Peterson (I believe) to force the QB out of the pocket. Hayes is spying on this play which is why he doesn’t immediately rush when it seems obvious that he should. But overall, this isn’t a clean pocket situation where UofL got no pressure.

On the back end of this play, Burns underestimates the speed of the slot receiver and doesn’t turn and run quickly enough. He’s faking a blitz initially and his first couple of steps show that he’s making sure he doesn’t get beat on an inside route like a slant or crosser. But, he doesn’t really open up and sprint once the receiver takes off and he gets left behind. It happens.

I can’t figure out what coverage they’re in because the corner at the top of the screen passes off the outside receiver and sits in a short zone. That forces Russ Yeast to play both deep routes which is why he’s literally in between both guys when the ball is thrown. He does a great job to close on the play and then delivers a textbook hit across the body where the ball is going to be. At the worst he’s going to make a nice tackle here and stop he guy from getting more yards. At best he gets this result. I thought it was really great that he didn’t go for a kill shot and get a penalty. He made the right play and was rewarded for it.


This was another impressive play by DeAngelo Malone. UofL runs play action off of their run actin all the time but he is so quick that he beats Caleb Chandler to the spot and Chandler is left reaching and can’t get enough of him to throw him off line.

I do wonder if there should be an adjustment based off the alignment of the defense. Boone wouldn’t likely just jump outside like this on a run play. You have to think that they would double Malone and Boone would move up to the Safety. That makes more sense than him blocking no one. So maybe this should have been a double team with them both taking Malone.


Malone is a fantastic player but Adonis Boone should be able to control a 230 pound guy at the point of attack. He gets thrown aside here and ends up in the path of the runner. Louisville essentially has six starters on the Offensive Line but I tend to think that Dwayne Ledford will pick a true starting five at some point. Plays like this make you wonder if Boone could be the odd man out.


This is the same play they ran earlier for Smith’s long gain. The coverage ends up being different so the Safety should be there to either pick this pass off or make a hit on the receiver. He ends up doing neither and it might be fair to say that it was due to the pace on the ball from Cunningham. This ball is on a rope and it’s the only throw he could have made here. Smith obviously deserves a lot of credit for making this really tough catch and then getting another 20 yards or so.


Plenty of people have wondered aloud if the Running Backs would be a part of the passing game this year so it was nice to see this play design. I’m not sure I get the timing of the call with such a short field and it being run to the short side of the field.

The idea is to run Pfiefer up the middle of the field to hold the Safety. You have the jet sweep action to pull the defenders up the field. Then you sneak Hawkins and Ford behind them. I believe Hawkins is supposed to be further inside with his route here but he goes too wide and then gets pushed out further. It obvious didn’t come together, but it shows that they’re looking to spread things around in the passing game and utilize their speed.