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First Responder Bowl Game Day: Louisville vs. Air Force

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Go Cards.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Music City Bowl - Mississippi State v Louisville Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (6-6) vs. AIR FORCE FALCONS (9-3)

First Responder Bowl

Game Time: 3:15 p.m.

Location: Gerald Ford Stadium: Dallas, TX

Television: ESPN

Announcers: Tiffany Greene (play-by-play), Jay Walker (analyst), and Kris Budden (sideline)

Favorite: Louisville by 1

All-Time Series: First meeting

Louisville Bowl History:

Statistics:

Louisville Uniforms:

Louisville Depth Chart:

Relevant Videos:

About Air Force:

via Keith Wynne

OFFENSE

Louisville football will play in its second bowl game of the Scott Satterfield era against the Air Force Falcons in Dallas, Texas. The Cards finished the regular season with six wins and are looking to avoid back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in well over a decade. The Falcons bring in the top rushing attack in the country with a strong triple-option focus. UofL will have to do what most teams struggle with which is stopping the option in a one-off game.

Air Force is led by a dynamic quarterback in Haaziq Daniels. The 6-1/200 signal-caller is averaging 7 yards per play when it comes to total offense with a 5 yard per carry average running the ball. Daniels isn’t a dynamic passer but he does have 5 touchdown passes on the season. Defending the option is all about stopping the dive man so Daniels makes it very hard to slow down the offense as he can get out into space and hurt you.

The running back group for the Falcons is deep but Brad Roberts is the key guy to focus on. The fullback has 1284 yards on the season and he is second in the country in carries per game. The dive man on most plays, Roberts has been able to put up big numbers even though he is the first key for the defense.

The tailback and wingback spots are where the depth shows. Five players are averaging over six yards per carry and you never really know which guy will get the ball. DeAndre Hughes is the guy that stood out to me when watching their games. He has really good speed and hits the corner quickly which allows him to pick up chunk yardage even if you set the edge well.

The receivers are also a mixed bag when it comes to effectiveness. Brandon Lewis and Micah Davis are the top two targets and both have made some plays when given the opportunity this season. When Air Force throws the ball it is typically down the field in some way. Neither receiver has great speed, but the design of the offense puts defenders in a trail position because they’re focused on the run. When that happens, the receivers get a free step on the defense which usually works out for them.

Air Force has the best rushing attack in the country when it comes to yardage but they do drop off a bit when it comes to yards per carry. After watching their games, it seems like they get stuffed at the line more often than I expected and they get into long third downs from time to time. This offensive line executes very well when it comes to blocking up the option plays but there are some issues at times when it comes to being consistent. UofL may have some chances to get stops and force the Falcons to pass.

DEFENSE

The Louisville offense will be up against it this week when they take on the Air Force Falcons. They will be facing a defense that has done a great job this season of limiting opponents on the ground and in the air. However, the Falcons haven’t faced an offense like Louisville’s. The performance of this group will likely be the biggest factor in the game. They will have to play their best game of the year.

Jordan Jackson is the key man up front for the Falcons. The 6-5/285 nose guard has 10 tackles for loss this season and he is always around the ball when you watch the defense play. Christopher Herrera has also had a strong season for this three-man front. This group doesn’t carry a lot of bulk but they are very long which helps them handle blockers.

Air Force has one of the most productive edge players in the country in Vince Sanford. He has 17 tackles for loss on the year which includes 9.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. He has consistently made plays in the backfield this year and will be a focal point for Louisville. The rest of the linebackers have not made many impact plays but the Falcons are good on this side of the ball because they rarely make errors. The linebackers are always in the right spots and make it very hard to run the ball between the numbers. Where I have seen teams have success is working the edges with speed. I would expect UofL to do the same.

The secondary is solid but not too special for the Falcons. Tre Bugg impressed me in the games I watched as he does a good job of staying sticky with receivers and his size helps him make plays on the ball and receiver. Where he, and the secondary in general, struggle is when they have to match up with speedy receivers. They are near the worst in the country when it comes to giving up explosive passing plays. I would imagine, Scott Satterfield looks to get his speedy receivers behind this defense.

Excitement Level: 6.9

I sincerely hope this is the lowest the excitement level meter ever gets for a bowl game.

Game Attire: Red Louisville Cardinals sweatshirt under Lamar leap t-shirt

The only combination that has accomplished anything of note during this season.

Pregame Meal: Leftover chicken wings

Quick mini-meal before the pregame radio show rolls from 1-3.

Bold Prediction: Louisville scores a touchdown on a trick play

After a 1-11 regular season for the bold prediction section, let’s finish the year strong.

Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Fern (he’s in the transfer portal)

New territory for the Alert Level.

Predicted Star of the Game: Malik Cunningham

Would only be right.

Notable:

—Louisville is 11-11-1 all-time in bowl games. The Cardinals are playing in a bowl game for the second time in three seasons under head coach Scott Satterfield.

—Satterfield is a perfect 4-0 in bowl games, going 3-0 as the head coach at Appalachian State and 1-0 at Louisville.

—Air Force has a 13-13-1 all-time bowl record, including a 5-5 mark under current head coach Troy Calhoun.

—Air Force leads the nation in rushing with a 340.8 yards per game average. The Falcons are one of only two teams in the nation averaging over 300 yards.

—Louisville ranks 21st nationally in rushing offense, averaging 211.3 yards per game.

—The Cardinals average 5.4 yards per carry, which ranks seventh nationall.

—Louisville is 8-3 versus United States service academies, including a 6-3 record versus Army and a 2-0 mark against Navy.

—Air Force has rushed for 400 or more yards five times this season, including two straight games. The Falcons have averaged 498 yards the last two games, rushing for a season-high 511 vs. UNLV and 485 at Nevada.

—The Cardinals are 8-17 in games played in the state of Texas, including a 3-8 mark in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

—Louisville is 1-0 in neutral site games played in Texas, defeating Drake 34-20 in the 1958 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

—Air Force is 12-10 all-time in 22 meetings against teams from the ACC.

—Air Force is 2-2 all-time in bowl games vs. the ACC with two of the four meetings coming in the Independence Bowl. The Falcons lost to North Carolina, 35-0, in the 1963 Gator Bowl, beat Virginia Tech, 23-7, in the 1984 Independence Bowl, lost to Virginia Tech, 20-13, in the 2002 San Francisco Bowl and beat Georgia Tech, 14-7, in the 2010 Independence Bowl.

—A non-quarterback has been the MVP of the last three First Responder Bowls, and five of the last six.

—Louisville QB Malik Cunningham is 32 yards away from becoming the third quarterback in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and just the 17th U of L player overall to rush for 1,000-yards in a season.

—This will be Louisville’s first bowl game against a non-SEC team since the Cardinals joined the ACC in 2014.

—Air Force is 6-12 against Power Five teams since 2003.

—A loss would give Louisville back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2008-09.

—Air Force has forced a punt or turnover on the opponent’s opening drive in 10 of their 12 games so far this season.

—The Falcons have scored a touchdown on their opening drive in eight of their 12 games fo far this season.

—Air Force has outscored opponents 94-27 in the first quarter this season

—Louisville is a 1-point favorite in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Cardinals are 5-2 straight up as a favorite so far this season.

—Air Force is trying to reach 10 wins for the fourth time in 10 seasons. The Falcons, whose three losses are by a combined 17 points, won 10 games only five times in the program’s first 57 seasons before that.

—ACC teams have lost 11 consecutive bowl games since Louisville’s 2019 Music City Bowl victory over Mississippi State.

—Air Force has recorded 91 consecutive running plays dating back to the second half of the Nevada game.

—Louisville is 11-4 in bowl games when no opposing player rushes for 110 yards and 0-7-1 when one does.

—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 14-2 when winning the turnover battle, and just 2-15 when losing it.

—Over the last two seasons, Louisville has played eight games in which it has out-gained its opponent and still lost. No other FBS program has done this more than five times over the same span.

—Louisville is 6-0 under Scott Satterfield when scoring 40-49 points, and 3-0 when scoring 50 or more.

—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 57-7 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 16-4 in such games under Satterfield.

—Louisville is 0-8 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.

—Louisville is 0-14 under Satterfield when trailing at the end of the 3rd quarter.

—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 273 games dating back to a 31-0 loss to Florida State during the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the second longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech, and the 11th-longest nationally.

—Louisville is 195-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-121 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.

Quotable:

—”What a remarkable opportunity for us to go play against an outstanding opponent in Louisville and truly have an opportunity to cap off what’s been one heck of a season for us.” —Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun

—“I mean, we got to finish on a high note. There’s no question about it that we’re not out here just to go through the motions. Our guys have come out like they have a purpose. . . . They’ve been focused, they’ve come out, they’ve gone to work.” —Scott Satterfield

—”With bowl games, going into the next year, there’s always momentum for the team who wins. This will be a big, big finish for us on this season, considering how the season went. A lot of ups and downs, and to go out on top against Air Force - a very good team - it would be great to end the season that way.” —Malik Cunningham

—”When you’re playing a triple option team you got to be very disciplined with your eyes and with the gap controls, and things of that nature. The guys have continued to work at it because they’re different. Totally, totally different.” —Bryan Brown

—“I’m glad not many teams run (the triple option). They do an outstanding job with it. Fortunately, we’ve had 2 1/2 weeks to prepare for it. It does bring back memories of the old SoCon where several teams would run that, and they were always very successful. And we know Air Force is been extremely successful too now.” —Scott Satterfield

—“We have a lot of guys in that receiver room, even though Justin and Jordan left, that are getting a chance. They’re ready to step up and they’re just ready to make plays. We’re out there on a practice field, they’re going hard, just treating it just like a game to get ready for you. I trust them. They know what they’re doing, so ready to see them put on the show.” —Marshon Ford

—”You think back over the years the guys they’ve had there at Louisville. Especially most recently with Lamar Jackson. Now to have a guy where are some similar attributes and some other areas where he has his own talents, too. It’ll be a great challenge. Certainly an outstanding football squad.” —Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun

—“The quarterback is a phenomenal player. He’s really good. They run a lot of their stuff through him.” —Air Force defensive back Tre Bugg III

—”There was a lot of negativity that’s been floating around the last little bit, and it’s easy to get caught up into that if you start listening to it. We don’t have time to do that. As coaches, as players, we don’t have time, we’ve got a job to do.” —Scott Satterfield

Go Cards.