Secondary Concern?

While the match up between Louisville's run defense vs. Steve Slaton and West Virginia's potent ground attack gets most of the headlines, the key element in Thursday night's Top-5 showdown might actually be whether or not Mountaineer quarterback Pat White can make the critical throws against the Cardinals secondary.

While the match up between Louisville's run defense vs. Steve Slaton and West Virginia's potent ground attack gets most of the headlines, the key element in Thursday night's Top-5 showdown might actually be whether or not Mountaineer quarterback Pat White can make the critical throws against the Cardinals secondary.

Louisville isn't going to stop the elusive Slaton, nobody has. The Cardinals remember the speedster very well after the sophomore scored six touchdowns last season in West Virginia's 46-44 win in triple-overtime. This season, Slaton has rushed for 1,059 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 7.0 yards per carry. He's clearly one of the most explosive players in college football.

"He's fast and a very physical runner," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "He gets better as the game goes on. The more carries he gets the more difficult he becomes."

The Louisville defense hopes to contain Slaton with a speedy corps of linebackers that includes the team's leading tackler Lamar Myles, juniors Malik Jackson and Preston Smith and seniors Nate Harris and Abe Brown.

And while slowing down Slaton and co. on the ground will be vital to Louisville's chance for a victory against the fifth-ranked Mountaineers, the match up between the Cardinals improved secondary and West Virginia quarterback Pat White will be critical in determing the game's outcome.


Rod Council's return could provide
a boost to the Louisville secondary
against West Virginia.

An accomplished runner, White's passing ability doesn't get its just due. Though White has rushed for 619 yards and nine touchdowns this season, he's also hurt opponents through the air, completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 819 yards and six touchdowns.

However, White has also thrown five interceptions this season, including three against East Carolina last month, and averages just 13 passes and 117 yards passing per game. If West Virginia intends to move the ball consistently against a stingy Louisville defense that ranks ninth nationally against the run and eighth in scoring defense, White will likely have to be effective in the passing game.

"They have great skill at the wide receiver position, and (White) has been able to throw the ball," Petrino said. "It's not like you can just come in and defend the run. You have to make sure you cover everything they do."

White completed 5-of-11 passes for 59 yards last season against Louisville and triggered West Virginia's comeback from a 24-7 deficit in the fourth quarter. Whether or not he can beat Louisville through the air remains unknown. It's also unknown whether or not he'll have to take to the air against the Cardinals, especially with his and Slaton's ability to punish opponents with their legs.

"He is very dangerous when there is a pass play called or a naked boot called and it's not there and he makes something happen with his legs," Petrino said.

It will be critical for Louisville's defense to contain White on the ‘broken' plays and prevent him from getting into the secondary where he's extremely dangerous and a threat to go score from anywhere on the field.

"You have to have a guy designed to take the quarterback and you've got to stay in your rush lanes and not give them big gaps to run through," Petrino said.

If the Cardinals can do that, they'll have an opportunity to handed West Virginia their first loss of the season and continue their rise in the national rankings.


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