3 Scoreless Possessions to Start, Cards Defense Swarms
To start the game, a strong breeze from the south to the open end of the stadium was going to affect the kicking game as Chris Philpott uncharacteristically boomed a kickoff out of the back of the end zone. The opening possession for USF was unsuccessful, but it was clear that the Cardinals were going to bring pressure and force BJ Daniels to throw the ball. Daniel Brown and BJ Butler both had big plays that led to the punt. A short punt gave UofL the ball for the first possession at the Cardinal 40.
The Cardinals opening drive moved across mid-field but was eventually stalled after Josh Byrom failed to pick up his assignment and block Patrick Hampton forcing Justin Burke to get rid of the ball and forced a punt. On the punt, Philpott showed a lack of touch kicking into the end zone and a 5-yard illegal formation penalty gave the Bulls the ball on the 25-yard line, resulting in a net 15-yard punt. Philpott is an adequate replacement for Josh Bleser, but it is clear that he is not the punt that Bleser was for us this season. We need to get this back in balance and get Bleser back, his value shines more with every Philpott punt.
Johnny Patrick snuffed out a BJ Daniels scramble for a 2-yard loss, and Rodney Gnat dropped the running back at the LOS on the first two Bulls plays after retaining possession. On 3rd down, the Cardinal defense came up big when they brought heat and Darius Ashley found his way to Daniels, forcing a fumble that Greg Scruggs scooped up and returned to the 10-yard line. Great play call and execution by the whole defense, total team effort here.
Taking Advantage of Great Field Position, Cards 7-0
After gaining the gift-wrapped possession from the defense on the 10-yard line, the Cardinals were sure to get points. After a 5-yard run by Bilal Powell on first down it was looking like a touchdown would be likely, but then on 2nd down Josh Bellamy was flagged for a Chop Block which set the Cardinals back 15 yards.
I reviewed this "chop block" closely. When I saw it, I almost felt like I didn't understand the rule. Because what I was seeing didn't look like a "Chop Block" as I understood them. So I went and researched the rule by what NCAA classifies it as, and found that what Bellamy did does not meet the criteria. Now, I'm not saying that Bellamy made a good football play either. That is a sorry attempt at blocking if you ask anyone, Bellamy needs to show some toughness and take his man on and drive him backwards, like his teammate Andrell Smith has showcased all year long.
Following the phantom flag on 2nd & 19, the Cardinals ran a strange QB draw with Justin Burke. But that didn't end up mattering as Andrell Smith found the soft spot in the zone and Burke delivered the ball in time for Smith to take Jon LeJiste for a ride into the end zone for a touchdown. Big Boy play by Andrell Smith. Thank you Defense. 7-0 Cardinals.
6 Punts, Field Position Battle Ensues
The Bulls 3rd possession found some success with 2 first downs before eventually punting the ball back to the Cardinals. On the drive, a BJ Daniels was able to drop and scramble for the initial first down, and they missed an opportunity for a big gain as BJ Daniels overthrew his receiver as his reputation for being inaccurate continued. The second first down of the drive was a breakdown pre-snap as no one had containment on the right side of defense. Both Patrick and Burns were on left side and Daniels only had to fake and buy enough space to get over to the empty side and get the new set of downs. They would use this same play to convert their 2-point conversion later. The Cardinal defense then tightened up after 3 straight rushes and UofL retained possession at the 25-yard line.
UofL's following possession was stalled after Burke overthrew Cameron Graham on a really tough route for Burke. Beaumont was more open on the play and was the easier throw, really would like to know why he made the choice he did. Both were open, Beaumont was just the easier conversion for a new set of downs. 3 and OUT Louisville punt to the USF 22.
At the 22, the Cardinal defense continued to render the Bulls offense useless and forced their own 3 and OUT. Great play by Daniel Brown on 3rd down to shed the block and make the tackle. Poor attempt by the USF blocker. Decent punt gave Cardinals the ball back at the Cardinal 33.
The Cardinals wasted a great 8-yard run on 1st down by Bilal Powell as they got nothing from Victor Anderson and Blayne Donnell on 2nd and 3rd down and were forced to punt the ball back to the Bulls, giving them the ball at the USF 29 yard line. Great punt coverage by Dominique Brown.
Bradley Battles took a 2nd down run for 14 yards as Greg Scruggs gave up contain and Daniel Brown dropped too deep into coverage which provided a big space for Battles to run through for a 1st down. On 3rd down Daniels once again overthrew his receiver as Patrick slightly slipped allowing the WR to get space. Luckily for the Cardinals Daniels put too much on it. The USF punt put the ball on the 2-yard line as Beaumont appeared to not like the way the ball was reacting to the wind and pulled away from the catch.
Backed up on the 2-yard line the Cardinals started out with a false start from Alex Kupper who was playing RG. I really didn't understand this flag as it appeared that Keith McCaskill was in the neutral zone when Kupper moved. It only pushed the Cardinals back a yard, and then on the following line-up USF did the same thing and were flagged for 5 yards giving the Cardinals space and 1st and 6. Finally the 1st down play happened, but Powell was dropped for a 1-yard loss. On 2nd down Powell lost another. On 3rd down, Burke was hurried and had to rid himself of the ball. Offensive Line really did not shine on this series. Philpott's punt was less than awful into the wind and off the side of his foot giving USF the ball at the 26-yard line in excellent scoring position.
USF takes advantage of their own short field, Cards 7-3
The Bulls started the possession in FG position, and their offense still couldn't produce anything. On 3rd down, Johnny Patrick slipped again but Bogans stopped his route which caused Daniels to overthrow him in what would have been a wide open TD had Bogan kept his route going. As it was, USF settled for a short FG. The offense and special teams owns these 3 points, as the Bulls find the scoreboard.
Long Cardinal Drive, 14 plays, 11 passes Cardinal TD, 14-3
After 3 straight 3 and OUTs for the Cardinals they finally found a first down as Andrell Smith fought his way across the line. Beaumont then caught a 9-yarder and appeared to come up lame during the catch. Powell then gained 7 to finish up the 2nd 1st down. The third 1st down came from a really sly move by Burke and Bellamy, Burked was flushed from the pocket and kept his eyes downfield to find Bellamy sitting in a nice spot to find a 17-yard reception and a new set of downs.
Before the fourth 1st down of the drive there were two potentially HUGE plays that didn't happen. First down, Burke underthrew a WIDE open Damian Copeland, and then on 2nd down Jeremy Wright stopped his route and probably would have had a 20-30 yard gain. The first down was achieved as Andrell Smith stepped up again for a 13-yard reception. Really nice throw and catch. The fifth 1st down was the ensuing play as Josh Bellamy ran a nice out route and Burke saw the Bulls in man coverage and took advantage and delivered the ball to the 11-yard line.
The following play Mark Wetterer got caught holding during an 8-yard run by Bilal Powell. Definite hold, Wetterer was pulling and made contact too high and grabbed around the neck and spun the block, official has to thrown that flag, no choice. On 2nd & 15 Damian Copeland found himself one yard away from a touchdown as Burke found him open towards the corner of the end zone. A faster delivery results in a score here. The drive was capped off with a neat jump pass to Chichester. Chichester sold the run really well on the play. Nice drive, 14-3.
Bulls return Kickoff 100 yards for TD, 14-10
I really don't think there is anything more deflating in sports than when an offense has a LONG drive and scores and then the opposition comes right back and scores without an offensive play. And that's what happened on Saturday. UofL has been shaky on kickoff coverage al season and on this play UofL should have covered it at the 20.
Darius Ashley came in too aggressive and Dominique Brown found himself taking on two blockers, Hakeem Smith completely missed the tackle at the 38-yard line and then Scott Radcliff showcased why he doesn't belong on kickoff coverage as he completely "mailed it in" and showed ZERO effort in making his tackle at the 50. Brown was there again and again was easily blocked, and Darius Ashley showed back up again with an aggressive angle that came up short. TD.
Most of our kick coverage is young, so missing assignments and playing out of gaps is pretty normal. We're going to give up some yards here. My biggest problem with this particular play is the lack of desire to tackle. If you are going to run all that way and get a chance to play, why not make the tackle? Especially for guys like Scott Radcliff who doesn't get a lot of snaps.
End of Half, 14-10
The Cardinal offense found itself back on the field almost immediately after their 14-play TD drive, and found itself quickly off it again after a 3 AND OUT. Two incompletions and a 1-yard rush from Burke. After a facemask penalty, Burke threw a nice ball to Andrell Smith but Smith lost focus concerned with keeping his feet inbounds along the sideline on an out route and dropped the 1st down. On 2nd down, Andrell got the look again and should have made the catch again, but the USF defender popped the ball out from behind and prevented the 1st down. On 3rd down, Burke just tried to get back whatever he could as the pocket collapsed way too quickly.
Burke had 114 yards in the first half, finished the day with 146 total.
Cards Open 2nd half with 3 AND OUT, Give Up FG to USF, 14-13
UofL opened with 3 straight incompletions. On first down, Andrell with W-I-D-E open and Burke severely underthrew the ball. 2nd down saw Byron Stingily not even come close to making his block, and on 3rd down Josh Bellamy dropped the catch. Philpott got off a nice punt and USF started on their 11.
On the Bulls' 3rd down Darius Ashley was called for holding that probably should not have been called. This sort of contact happens all the time and is a penalty in the NFL under "Illegal Contact", but it is not called that way in college football. Ashley did not hold, but he did make contact before the ball was in the air, which is legal in college football. The next play was a 67-yard run on the right side for DeMetrius Murray. BJ Butler was in the backfield but honored the potential fake and covered BJ Daniels while letting Murray pass, which is what Butler should do, but he needs to have more ball awareness. Brandon Dunn was sealed at the LOS, and Brandon Heath covered the middle hole and found his angle blocked by Dunn. Hakeem Smith was also focused on containing Daniel and didn't slide over and take the run away. Shenard Holton tried to go through Johnny Patrick to make the tackle and essentially tackled himself. Everyone was chasing from here and Holton did run Murray down to prevent the TD. On 3rd down BJ Butler and Hakeem Smith made a really nice play to take away the BJ Daniel scramble and forced the USF FG. 14-13.
Offense runs 5 straight times and then Burke throws INT
UofL's 2nd possession of the second half saw Jerrel Young make a TD saving tackle on Powell as he caught him at the UofL 47 after a 20-yard run. On 3rd down really bad spot to come up with 4th & 2. UofL would have still been short, but instead of 4th and 2, it should have been 4th & half. The Cardinals turned to the WildCard formation with Dominique Brown and they picked up the first down. If Justin Burke had shown some fortitude on the play, Brown would have had a huge gain. Burke almost looked to refuse to block his assignment and his guy came through and made the play off the edge. But UofL still gained the first down.
The ensuing snap saw Justin Burke hit as he threw, as Byron Stingily couldn't block Patrick Hampton all day. This play hurt as UofL was at the USF 35, and was intercepted giving the ball back to the Bulls when UofL was nearly in scoring position. I don't really think Beaumont was open on the play anyway as Jerrell Young was sitting on his route underneath, but obviously the play would have had a better chance if Burke was not hit as he was throwing. But you don't throw to the out route in zone coverage at this level, that's a good bet for an INT.
Cardinals get ball back, throw another INT
The Cardinals would retain possession after South Florida gained a little field position after the Burke INT and good opportunity to score. Before the Bulls punted the ball back, the Bulls gained a fifth of the field back with a 20-yard run from their FB Richard Kelly. Brandon Dunn didn't recognize it and Johnny Patrick rode Kelly down around midfield. A terrible punt gave the Cards the ball back at the UofL 27.
On the first play of the Cardinal possession Powell broke off a 20-yard run on the right side. Wetterer made a great block on the linebacker to get Powell up the field. The next play looked like a mistake as the pitch went left and Powell tried to cut back right after Stingily forgot to block Patrick Hampton again and Powell was toast. It almost looked like a broken play because half the team looked to go left, the other half looked to go right. Maybe some miscommunication here. Josh Bellamy bailed the offense out on 2nd & 3rd down with consecutive receptions for a first down.
Later on 2nd down Powell ran for 15-yards on the left side and almost broke it. Stingily, Wetterer, Benavides, and Bellamy all had nice blocking on this play. Surprised it didn't go further. This was followed by Dominique Brown's first pass attempt of his career from the 23-yard line, and great scoring position. Brown rolled right and had Pete Notcha and Cameron Graham both open and when he released the linebacker tipped the ball up in the air for an easy pick for his teammate. The play would have worked to either option Graham or Notcha, probably not a TD, but a first down for sure. The linebacker shot his arms into the air and caught the ball and it was a rude introduction to the passing world of college football for young Mr. Brown. Really a shame, Brown had time, showed patience, and calm. I'd like to see him have another shot at throwing, I don't think it is indicative of his throwing abilities, just a bit of bad luck for him and the Cards for his first collegiate pass attempt.
The Cardinals threw two INTs inside the USF 40-yard line in what is two sure fire missed scoring opportunities. Still, neither INT hurt in regards to USF scoring off the turnover as their offense was pretty non-existent sans a few plays on the day. After the Brown INT, the Cards forced another 3 AND OUT to end the 3Q.
At the end of the 3Q, I thought UofL should have called a timeout and forced USF to punt into the wind where both teams struggled in the kicking game throughout the day. However, the final timeout would prove essential as Coach Strong used it before Maikon Bonani drilled a 52-yarder at the end of regulation in what would have won the game for the Bulls. You could look at it like the punt would have been much shorter and the entire game would have changed and the Cardinals would not have been in that position. At the time, I felt like the timeout was the thing to do and make them kick into the wind. Plus, UofL needlessly wasted a timeout because they couldn't get the play in.
Beaumont muffs punt, Offense stalls, Bad Punt by Philpott
To start the 4Q, things didn't look good as Beaumont couldn't handle the punt in the tailwind. He was able to recover and the Cardinals would start the drive at the 12-yard line. Really conservative play calling on this drive, but the Cards were able to find a first down on an 8-yard reception by Donnell on 3rd down. Later on 3rd and 4 Burke killed the drive when he threw WAY behind a W-I-D-E open Andrell Smith. Bad throw, wouldn't expect a senior QB to make that kind of throw in a critical situation, should have been a 1st down. The punt back to USF was really bad, 17 yards giving the ball to USF in UofL territory at the 48.
One Play, One Bobble, One Touchdown, 21-14 USF
The first play for the Bulls was BJ Daniel throwing a towering deep ball into double coverage to a WR in the middle of the end zone. At first it looked like it would be batted down or intercepted, but neither happened. Good play-action and good protection. UofL didn't bring the pressure it had been bringing throughout the game. In my opinion it wasn't a catch. He did catch the ball, but I don't think he gained possession until he was out of bounds. Bobby Burns covered up the angle for the review as he slid overtop the WR, and since the call was TD on the field there is no way that is getting overturned.
The two-point conversion was used earlier in the game. Patrick & Burns were in man and on the same side of the field. Heath & Butler were only hopes of making play and both were sucked in on play-action, easy walk-in. 21-14 USF
Cards need tying TD, get it in two possessions, 21-21
Jeremy Wright was able to get a nice KO return to mid-field. Two Powell rushes gained a first down, and then on 2nd & 7 a drive killer came in the form of a Josh Bellamy block in the back penalty, which was his 2nd blocking infraction on the day. Powell gained about six yards on the play, and Bellamy didn't need to even make the block, and he definitely did it. Just a dumb play. Powell would have been close to the first down, and he barely made contact, but that's the rule. He needs to keep his block in front of him anyway. Bellamy needs to work on his blocking in a big way, he has made some nice ones, but overall his blocking is sub par.
After the penalty on 3rd & 18 Burke had no time to see a wide open Doug Beaumont for a 1st down. USF brought 6 guys to pressure, Bad protection, and probably needed someone on an underneath (there wasn't this type of route) and just give the ball a chance to find the marker. Philpott finally got off a nice punt towards the closed end and the ball was downed at the USF 9.
There was plenty of time left and UofL just needed to get a stop and get the ball back. After a first down conversion for USF, the Cardinals would then dial up the pressure and make two consecutive TFL. Daniel Brown read the first down play and Dexter Heyman got a sack on 2nd down. Rodney Gnat nearly had BJ Daniel down at the goal line.
UofL would get the ball back on a fair catch by Beaumont, and would get some assistance on a really dumb play by the USF gunner who touched Beaumont prior to catching the ball. Even without the fair catch signal this is a stupid play. He was trying to say he was blocked into Beaumont, but I went back and watched it, he did it on purpose so he'll have to deal with his own ignorance.
Once UofL's offense took the field, it was 7 straight runs. 3 yards for Powell, 9 yards for Powell. Then a facemask for 15 more yards. Wright for 5, Wright for 4, Powell for 4 (1st down, nice pull by Wetterer). Then Powell for 4 more yards was called back on a really bad holding call on Doug Beaumont. The defender turned his body as Powell went around and Beaumont kept his hands on the defender which he has a right to do, official was sold by the defender raising his arms. Really bad flag.
After the penalty, the play clock is 25 seconds. It has been this way all season, and even last year and maybe even the year before that. After stoppages the play clock is 25 seconds. The Cards simply have had the worst time in this situation getting the play in, getting into the huddle, getting out of the huddle, lining up and snapping the ball. After 10 games this needs to be corrected. After the Beaumont holding penalty, the Cards had to rush the snap and it resulted in a –1 yard rush for Powell.
On 2nd a goal from the 13, Powell went for another 3 yard rush. So from 3rd and Goal from the 10, and the Cardinals desperately needing a TD, they finally went to the air for the first time on the possession as Burke threw a really nice short fade to Bellamy who had sold his route and stalled the corner really well. Nice throw and location for both Bellamy and Burke. Cards 21-21.
Kickoff Nightmare Continues, Bulls get chance, miss FG forces OT
Philpott kicked a high ball to the upback. I'm not sure if this was the intent or if the ball just hung up there in the wind like the punts were. Regardless if the upback is returning the ball, he needs to be dropped within 5 yards of the catch. Instead he was able to cross midfield and get to the UofL 40. Senorise Perry went too deep, Hakeem Smith didn't slide over in time. This allowed USF to attempt a 52-yard FG with no time remaining. Coach Strong was determined to use both timeouts and let the kick linger in the mind of kicker Maikon Bonani as long as possible. It's a good thing Coach Strong had two left to use because Bonani drilled his first try, but hooked the one that counted badly and we went to OT. 21-21.
Overtime, the Decision, USF easy FG winner
Obviously, losing the coin toss put UofL in the unenviable position of not knowing what it had to do on offense as the Cards were to get the ball first. They were able to get the closed end of the field where they scored 2 out of 3 TDs on the day. Plus the defense would have the crowd.
Once in OT, 2 straight rushes with Powell nearly picked up the first down. He asked to come off after the 2nd rush and didn't play after that. With 3rd & 1, the Cards went to the Wildcard and Dominique Brown came up huge with a first down. Mark Wetterer made another beautiful pull on the play. On 1st & 10 Jeremy Wright went straight ahead for 4 yards. On 2nd & 6 Wright went left for 4 more yards.
On 3rd and 2 Wright was marked just short, but after reviewing I think the spot was less than favorable and UofL probably should have reviewed the spot.
The decision to go for it here is tempting. With 4th down and inches as a football coach who had entire drives of rushing the football you would have to think that your offense would pick up that first down. I wanted to go for it, but I also wanted to take the points at the same time. I do think the prudent thing to do is to kick the FG and put the game in your defense's hands. Especially considering how well the defense played vs. the Bulls all day.
I can't fault Coach Strong for going for it, especially because he has been aggressive all season with this team and with 8-10 inches to pick up I didn't expect Coach Strong to change his approach. I hate to second-guess Strong because he has done an amazing job with this team (just look at the defense, which is the strength of the team). But he said in his post game press conference that he didn't think USF could score a TD in OT so kicking the FG would be the way to go, put the game in your defense's hands and get the ball back and put it in the endzone if they matched your FG.
The QB sneak on 4th and inches was not good. It hasn't been effective all year and UofL really hasn't had a reliable sneak since Eric Wood left (not a knock on Benavides at all). In the end, the ball was spotted in nearly the same position as before the snap, no push from the offensive line at all. Coach Strong would challenge the spot, but usually the sneak is a mass of humanity and impossible to see. I don't think I've ever seen a QB sneak spot reversed.
Now the defense had a nearly impossible job and the Bulls only needed to kick a 42-yard FG at worst. In the end a 37-yarder ended the game. 24-21 Bulls.