Bits and Bytes - Louisville

Although just about every possible angle has been covered in the WVU - Louisville game, here are a few final observations and points of interest to take you up until gametime.






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Series: 6-1-0
Thu 11/2 7:30 pm
Louisville, KY

Papa John's Stadium
Record: 7-0
USA/Coaches: 3rd
Last Game
UCONN W 37-11

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Record: 7-0
USA/Coaches: 5th
Last Game
Syracuse W 28-13
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First Meeting: 1984
Last Meeting: 2005
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BIG CHALLENGE

If West Virginia defeats the Cardinals, it will be the Mountaineers' best win ever on the road. WVU is just 2-24 all time against Top Ten-rated teams on the road, and both wins came against squads ranked #9 in the country. The Mountaineers defeated Penn State in 1953 and Oklahoma in 1982.

SPREADING THE WEALTH

While a great deal of attention has been focused on Louisville's wide receivers, West Virginia can't ignore the Cardinal running backs in the passing game. Kolby Smith and George Stripling have combined to catch 21 passes for 337 yards and are averaging 16.0 yards per catch. West Virginia's short zone passing defense will be stretched to the limit in trying to cover crossing patterns 10-15 yards downfield, but also staying conscious of backs flaring out into the flats.

Add in the fact that Louisville has completed passes to no fewer than 15 different receivers, and the task for the West Virginia pass defense looks even more difficult.

TOP NOT TOPS

An article of debate that has arisen in several quarters prior to the game is this: With conventional wisdom holding that WVU needs to hold on to the ball in order to keep the UL offense off the field, are quick-strike scoring drives necessarily a good thing?

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Game Info
WVU 7-0, 2-0
UL 7-0, 2-0
Thu 11/2 7:30 p.m.
Papa John's Stadium
Series: WVU 6-1
TV: ESPN
BCS: WVU-3rd UL-5th
Harris Poll WVU 3rd - UL 5th
Line: WVU +2
Of course, the answer is yes. Scoring touchdowns is the objective of the game. Once seven points are on the board, the opposing team can only match it. (O.K., they could go for two, but you get the point.) Lightning drives and scores also serve to demoralize foes' defenses, and can put a bit of pressure on the enemy offense to score in response.

WVU has scored 13 touchdowns this year on drives of five plays or fewer (although the UL press release erroneously lists the number as 12), and the Mountaineers also have two kick returns as well. Adding two or three to that total mark of 15 quick strikes would be a huge benefit in the UL game, even if it does give the Cardinal offense the ball back more quickly. Of course, Louisville isn't exactly slow in marching the field either. The Cards have 13 short scoring drives of their own, and lead the nation with 18 drives of two minutes or less.

PER PLAY PRODUCTIVITY

There have been numerous stats presented, analyzed and dissected in the attempt to quantify and compare the offenses of the Mountaineers and Cardinals. However, among all the high national rankings and stellar numbers, this one stands out. Louisville averages 7.41 yards per play, while West Virginia tallies 7.26 yards per snap. Those figures are the second- and third-best in the nation, trailing only Hawaii, which averages 7.99 yards per play in a conference that's more vulnerable defensively than Winchester, Va. during the Civil War.

If one team can hold the other to, say, 5.5 yards per play, it will likely come out with a win.

RUNNING SURFACE

It's become apparent that West Virginia's offense is a bit hampered when playing on natural grass. While one school of thought holds that the slowing effect of grass affects everyone equally, another posits that quick-cutting, speedy players lose a bit more of their edge than slower plodders.

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While it would be difficult to verify this scientifically without assembling a wide range of players and conducting tests on several different surfaces, the latter theory does appear to be true in WVU's case. While the Mountaineers certainly don't become Pitt on grass, it does seem as if a small percentage of zip is lost in games on natural turf.

The odd thing about all this is that artificial surfaces such as FieldTurf and WVU's AstroPlay are much more grass-like than the ersatz fields of just a few years ago. However, there's no doubt that Steve Slaton, Patrick White and company have a bit of an edge on those surfaces over the real stuff. Louisville, by the way, has Field Turf. However, the Cardinals aren't exactly lacking in the speed category either.

WEATHER OR NOT

As we move into November, weather could become more of a factor. While no rain is forecast for tonight's game, the temperature is exepcted to get down to the 30-degree mark, which can affect ball handling. Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm has said the cold does affect his injured thumb, and a similar effect could be seen on players with hamstring and other tendon and ligament ailments.


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