Match-Ups: WVU - Louisville

Louisville isn't a powerhouse, but it has some weapons that could allow it to spring an upset on Saturday.

BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Sat 11/5/10 12:00 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 6-2
BCS: 24
Last Game
Rutgers W 41-31
TV: Big East
Sirius/XM: 85/85
Web: BlueGoldNews.com
Record: 4-4
BCS: NR
Last Game
Syracuse W 27-10
Rosters/ Bios
Game Notes
Season Stats
2011 Schedule

Series: WVU 10-2
First Meeting: 1984
Last Meeting: 2010
Rosters/Bios
Game Notes
Season Stats
2011 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast


MATCH-UPS AND STORYLINES

WVU Offensive Line vs. UofL Linebackers Dexter Heyman and Preston Brown

Like most good defenses, Louisville is led by its linebackers. Heyman and Brown not only top the Cards' tackle chart, but both also spend a good deal of time in opponents' backfields. Heyman has 10 tackles for loss on the year, including three sacks, while Brown has added five and 1.5, respectively, so WVU will have to deal with the duo effectively to get its offense into high gear.

The first key to this battle is the nubmer of times the Cardinals elect to blitz. That tactic worked well for Syracuse, but Rutgers chose not to emply it as much (perhaps due to the weather). WVU will need to be sound in its blitz pickups in the passing game. It can also slow the Cards down by hitting some runs and catching the 'backers out of their normal positions, as it did against Rutgers.

Watch the behavior of Heyman and Brown before the snap, and look at Smith's reaction to their moves. Does Smith check off a number of times? Will the Mountaineers have to go to more backfield blockers (Matt Lindamood or Ricky Kovatch) in order to handle UofL's defensive pressure? There will be a nuimber of cat and mouse games as the Cardina;s attempt to disrupt the rhythm of the WVU offense.


WVU pass defense vs. Louisville tight end Josh Chichester

Chichester averages fewer than three receptions per game, but that doesn't mean he won't be a big part of the Cardinals' offensive plans against the Mountaineers



Darwin Cook
Chichester is a productive player and a big (six feet, eight inches) target. That makes him a threat in any situation, but against West Virginia's defense, which has had trouble with intermediate routes, he could be an even larger factor. WVU's 3-3-5 look takes away the run, but is vulnerable to crossing and dig routes, especially in the short and intermediate passing zones. Look for Louisville to employ similar tactics as those used by Syracuse in order to get Chichester free. The Orange used two tight end sets on several occasions to free up their interior receivers – watch to see if Louisville performs similarly, or if the Cardinals use combination routes with a slot receiver to help get their tall target in the clear. With his size, Chichester can also spot up and make himself available in short zones, and try to help keep the chains moving with short gains.

No defense can cover everything on every play, so it's not fair to think that West Virginia can shut down every option on every snap. However, the Mountianeers do need to get better drops from its linebackers, and better awareness from defenders in short passing zones. They must get deep enough to find those receviers running laterally across the field and put themselves in a position to prevent or break up those passes on occasion.

As noted, this is a tough task to execute on every play. WVU's first thought against the pass is to prevent the big play, so there are going to be short routes that are available at times. The trick is to break up just enough of these plays to keep the Louisville offense from building long drives around them. Just a couple of deflections, break-ups or forced throws can be enough to stop, say, two drives and get the ball back to the offense.


THINGS TO WATCH

When it comes to pressure and quarterback sacks, the offensive line and the quarterback get the most attention. Either the line failed to block someone, the reasoning goes, or the quarterback failed to get the ball out of his hands quickly enough. Both of those are valid reasons for sacks, but they aren't the only ones. Receivers, especially in this offense, also have to do their part to keep sacks from occurring.

It's tough, of course, to keep your eyes on all three parts of the equation. However, it's worth the effort, if you think a blitz is coming, to watch West Virginia's receivers. If the Cardinals bring the house, how do WVU's receivers respond? Do they get into short routes and make themselves available quickly to Smith? Or are they still looking downfield and running longer routes by the time Smith has to get rid of the ball? Are they hitting vacated zones, and giving smith the best chance to get the ball out early? All of these factors go into defeating the blitz, and WVU's receivers, like the rest of the offense, must be more consistent in executing these assignments.

As good as WVU's offense has been this year, these improvements could make it even more dangerous. The Mountaineers have proved that they can beat defenses sitting back in coverage, leaving all-out pressure as the only option for opposing defenses. When West Virginia gets more consistent at finding the gaps in coverage that result from that tactic, it is going to be nearly unstoppable on offense.

* * *

One of the drawbacks of playing so many youngsters, as Louisville is forced to do this year, is that they are often undisciplined. One way in which that shows up is in the penalty column, and the Cards have certainly been hampered in that play phase this year. Louisville has drawn 68 penalties in eight games for an average of almost 66 yards per game in losses. (WVU has 45 penalties on the season.)

As an offense that can't afford to hurt itself, Louisville has done just that on several occasions this year. If the Cards can keep their flag count down to four or five this week, and eliminate critical infractions that wipe out gains and halt drives, it will have a much better chance of keeping the ball and turning the game into a possession battle. That has to be one of head coach Charlie Strong's biggest goals this week, and if the Cardinals can play cleanly, it could have a larger than normal impact on the game.


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