In Review: Louisville vs. EKU

InsideTheVille.com's "Sheriff Report" breaks down Louisville's 23-13 win over Eastern Kentucky Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The victory was Charlie Strong's first at UofL. Next up for the Cardinals - a tough test at Oregon State this Saturday.

51,427 fans witnessed the first win of the Charlie Strong era vs. EKU in what was a tale of two halves for the UofL Cardinals. In the first half UofL struggled early before finding their stride in the 2nd quarter where the Cardinals exploded for all 23 of their points on the day. Despite defeating their FCS opponent by 10, UofL was in control of the game throughout and did what they needed to do to win.

Offense

It certainly is a different era for Cardinal Football. Since 2007 there has been a diminishing return on offensive production. It is safe to say that gone are the days of 50-60 point games for the UofL offense, for now…..Could the lack of production on offense be attributed to a hangover from the UK game or the Cards looking ahead to next week once the game was in hand?

In the first half Adam Froman played like a QB should vs. a FCS school. He completed 13 of 16 passes for 184 yards. The UofL offense thrived gaining 290 yards total. That all changed once they came back after halftime as Froman was only able to manage 35 yards passing the rest of the way. The offense only managed 98 total yards in the 2nd half.

I think the play calling in the 2nd half was less imaginative and conservative by design. With UofL up 23-0, I believe the coaches wanted to limit potential mistakes and not give anything easy to EKU. Whatever the case may be, there was no offensive rhythm in the 2nd half and it appeared that the offense lost focus and quit executing.


Adam Froman lacked consistency against Eastern Ky.
It is a little discouraging that UofL's running game could not simply overpower the defensive front of their FCS opponent. Also, I think that the lack of depth for UofL is already affecting this team at the wide receiver position. If I am a skill position prospect with a scholarship offer from UofL I don't know what would stop you from committing. UofL needs skill position players desperately. Lastly, you can't have pre-snap penalties on offense; two illegal formations vs. EKU.

Here is a position-by-position breakdown:

QB

Froman actually looked good for a stretch on Saturday. I think the best thing for UofL is to have only two options for him pre-snap. He just does not seem comfortable with multiple options. I'd have two choices for him to make and let him execute and play football. He does have a lot of tools, but I just do not trust his decision-making. I feel like Froman makes about 2-3 really bad decisions every 4 quarters. It isn't a high percentage, but the mistakes are costly. Froman's INT was a terrible read. The corner was in perfect position before he made the throw and the ball should have never gone that way, the corner broke perfectly on the ball and there was no one in front of him until Froman did his best "Bull Fighter" impersonation at the 15 yard line. If Froman keeps making reads and throws like that one at least he could learn how to tackle. Froman actually does throw a decent ball and also has not been guilty of focusing on one target. I would like to see him find a rhythm and get comfortable, I think we saw that for a short time on Saturday.

Grade: C+

RB

If I am going to complain about this position, it's only because there isn't a viable third option. UofL is going to need a healthy Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson throughout 2010 to be successful. With UofL lacking receivers, the running backs are going to be relied on regardless of situation. On the day, there was no drop-off between Powell or Anderson as both played well. I would have liked a few more big plays of 15-20 yards, but EKU was keying on the run for much of the game.

Grade: B+

WR

Doug Beaumont finally found the endzone from a 42-yard beauty from Froman! Beaumont hauled in 106 catches before finally finding the endzone in what has to be the longest consecutive catch streak without a TD in college football history. I couldn't find an official stat on that, but I can't imagine one being longer.

As good as Beaumont's effort was the UofL coaches know what we know. UofL needs bodies at WR. I think that is why Chichester saw so much of the field at the WR position in contrast to the UK game when he only played special teams. I do think that the staff was cautious and limited Josh Bellamy's reps in the game. Bellamy had some easy catches fall to the ground and that trend needs to stop for the WRs corps. I would like to see Andrell Smith see some more balls thrown his way. He is a big target with some speed and really does run nice routes for his QB.

In the third quarter I felt like the WRs were visibly gassed and not running their routes as crisply or sharply as they were in the 1st half. This could have been a mental lapse by the whole unit due to the game being easily in hand, but I think it speaks to the lack of depth that this unit is suffering from more than anything. Where is Damian Copeland? The coaches have been playing Jarrett Davis, when will he get a ball thrown his way?

Doug Beaumont: A
Rest of WRs: C

TE

Three Tight Ends saw the field, two fumbled. Luckily UofL recovered Chichester's fumble and went on to their first score. Unfortunately for Cameron Graham, UofL did not recover his miscue and wasted another great kickoff return by Victor Anderson. Graham fumbled on the 16-yard line in a possession that was sure to get points. Still Graham is proven to be UofL's 2nd or 3rd best option in the passing game and Froman needs to keep feeding him the ball.

Grade: C

OL

UofL gave up only one sack on the day and led the way for 169 yards rushing. I would love to see these guys really control the LOS better than they have been doing. I actually thought they played better vs. UK to be honest. A game like this, the OL and DL should be the biggest advantages and while UofL did win the battle, you wouldn't call the performance dominant. In the second half this is especially true as the offensive line should have been able to drive back the defensive front of EKU and consistently get first downs. That didn't happen on Saturday. There was only one holding penalty that I counted, and one false start. How bad is the Mark Wetterer injury?

Grade: B-

Defense

UofL is playing a lot of young guys on defense, but they are all playing very well. EKU's lone scoring drive was an 11 play, 80 yard drive late in the game with a lot of guys on the field who had not played in the first seven quarters of 2010 and aren't likely to contribute much this season. Despite that TD drive, the defense has been doing their job and only allowed 220 yards vs. EKU. There have been missed assignments and errors in lining up properly, but you can literally see them getting better on the field. EKU played a lot of 3-3-5 vs. EKU and really mixed personnel and schemes throughout. I thought there was a huge difference from last week (admittedly the opponents are not comparable). 13 TFLs, 8 Sacks, 1 INT, and 1 fumble recovery. Also, two true freshman took of their redshirts for the EKU game: Tyon Dixon and Deon Rogers.

DL

"Big Pretty" (Rodney Gnat) has the EKU QBs looking like "Ugly Betty" after Saturday's 6 tackle/4 sack performance. Gnat did not play vs. Kentucky and exploded in his opportunity. I think Gnat's opportunity actually came due to Brandon Heath's injury. BJ Butler primarily played LB, which opened up time at DE. Gnat took full advantage. The two standouts: Scruggs and Tatum were relatively quiet on the day. I don't know the number of snaps they played, but I guarantee you it was much fewer than last week. Will Savoy is quiet, but always producing. This unit did what it should do vs. an FCS opponent and was in the backfield throughout the day. Is Tim High OK? UofL certainly does not need any injuries along the defensive line.

Grade: A

LB

This unit looked almost completely different from last week. Not only was unit leader Brandon Heath out with an injury (I think it was probably precautionary more than anything), but also Dexter Heyman played a lot of MLB and managed to get in on 5 tackles and a sack! Daniel Brown was the only player who played the same position from last week and he was a bright spot with 2 TFL. BJ Butler played a hybrid LB like you see on a lot of NFL teams. I think it is interesting to see how much the coaches are throwing at Butler so early on in his college career. It might be a situation where the coaches are trying to figure out what he does best. Antwone Canady, Preston Brown, and Marcus Smith all played a less significant role vs. EKU which is interesting especially considering it might have been a great time to get P.Brown and M.Smith some experience at their positions.

Grade: B+

Safeties

Shenard Holton and Hakeem Smith both put together solid efforts again this week. Both are sure tacklers and solid in coverage. I do wonder what is wrong with Terrence Simien? I have not seen him on an injury report, and I neglected to look for him on the sideline to see if he dressed out. Maybe it is a punishment of some kind, undisclosed injury?

I feel like a lot of teams pick on Mike Evans when he comes in. I hope he gets it together and finds his stride, he just needs to play football and execute. He's in his own head.

Grade: B+

Corners

Bobby Burns has been a nice surprise thus far for UofL opposite of steady Johnny Patrick. Burns can tackle and never is too far out of position. He is reliable. Johnny Patrick was awesome coming on the corner blitz to stop the run on one instance. Patrick is solid, you don't worry about him. How about Darius Ashley getting the first INT of the season and of his career? He didn't get a lot of clock, but I was paying attention and felt he made a nice read for the pick. Lastly, Johnny Patrick appeared to be in bad shape is he ok?

Grade: A

How UofL will win games in 2010

The UofL defense has really played well in 6 out of 8 quarters of football this season. Coming into the season I didn't think I would be saying this but UofL will only be successful in 2010 if the defense continues to play well. Not to be negative, but UofL is limited on offense. It isn't one area that is bogging down the system but a collective series of positions that just aren't where they need to be.

First of all, the depth at WR is going to keep UofL running the football more often than what Mike Sanford would probably like. Secondly, Adam Froman is a serviceable QB that has athleticism, but is limited. I honestly feel like the coaches are calling the offense to not put the defense in a hole on a short field. The offense can do this in two different ways: 1) Either the offense needs to start putting together long sustainable drives or 2) they try to have quick possessions either by being very aggressive on offense trying to get big plays with the known risk that the possession could end quickly. My vote is for long sustainable drives, which seems to be the approach this staff is using. Conservative play calling limits the short fields for your defense and limits the number of possessions in the game allowing your defense to make plays and possibly some opportunities for easy scores.

In order for a conservative offense for long sustainable drives approach to work, the defense needs to make plays. Winning the turnover battle, making tackles behind LOS, sacks, getting to 4th down, and not allowing plays of 20+ yards is going to be extremely key over the course of the season.

Also, the offense needs to do their part as well. Thus far on the year UofL is converting only 24% of their 3rd downs. This is a shockingly low statistic, especially out of a game vs. an FCS opponent. The offense needs to make more progress towards the marker on 1st and 2nd down in order to get 3rd down to be successful. Limiting penalties plays a huge role in this as well. In the first game UofL had only 4 penalties on the day, but had 11 on Saturday vs. EKU.

Upcoming

Next week, UofL takes on a true test on the road vs. a very good Oregon State program in what is universally known as the toughest place to play in the PAC 10. The last time these two teams met, the roles were reversed as UofL was riding high and Oregon State was struggling. UofL won the contest 63-27 at PJCS. A lot of people will be saying that this is Oregon State's turn to return the favor from a meeting that will occur exactly 5 years plus one day ago. Oregon State was off last week after opening up with a loss v. TCU played in the Dallas Cowboys new stadium where the Horned Frogs outgained the Beavers by 198 yards. Oregon State's run defense really took it on the chin vs. TCU allowing 278 yards rushing on the opening weekend. TCU came out with something to prove as Boise State held them to just 36 yards rushing in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl last January and lost the title of the top non-BCS football program in the nation.

It will be interesting to see if UofL can run with success in Corvallis. But perhaps the most interesting thing to watch in the upcoming contest will be UofL trying to stop the dynamic duo of the Rodgers brothers (James and Jacquizz). The Oregon State offense did not find much success in their first contest and you can bet that they will be chomping at the bit to get their offense early. If UofL can stall Oregon State early this could be a much better ball game than the "experts" are expecting. Regardless this is a major barometer game for UofL in determining just how far of a climb the Cardinals have in front of them.


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