Sat 11/07/09 12:00 PM
USF L 30-19
TV: Big East
Arkansas St W 21-13
Series: WVU 8-2
First Meeting: 1984
Last Meeting: 2008
WVU – Scooter Berry (Shoulder and Discipline), Out – Indefinite Suspension; Reed Williams (Shoulder), Probable; WR Bradley Starks (Back), Probable; Chris Neild (Back), Questionable; DB Sidney Glover (Undisclosed), Questionable; DB Nate Sowers (Calf), Questionable.
UofL – QB Will Stein (Undisclosed), Questionable; WR Doug Beaumont (Knee), Questionable; QB Adam Froman (Elbow), Questionable; QB Justin Burke (Sternum), Questionable; RB Victor Anderson (Shoulder), Questionable; CB Preston Pace (Shoulder), Questionable; S Terrence Simien (Lacerated Kidney), Out for Season.
WVU Offense vs. UofL defense
Louisville's defense has been beaten via the run and pass this season, surrendering an average of four touchdowns per game. Five of eight opponents have scored 30 or more points, and the lone FBS win the 3-5 Cards have registered came against Southern Miss. Even Arkansas State took UofL to the wire before losing 21-13 last week. This isn't a good team, defensive or offensive, and new coordinator Brent Guy – who came to Louisville from Utah State after former DC Ron English left for Eastern Michigan – was already on the hot seat midway through the year. Part of that, or course, is because head coach Steve Kragthorpe has been in the same situation since year two, when the Cardinals showed little improvement from a 6-6 season in 2007. Guy's rush defense ranks 69th in the nation and last in the Big East at 147.4 yards per game. The problem for West Virginia is continuity. The Mountaineers are relying on big plays rather than solid, steady gains. They can get those against UofL, but need to work on better up front blocking and establishing some ability to run the ball in situations throughout the game.
The key cogs for Louisville are linebackers Chris Campa and Jon Dempsey. The duo rank one-two in tackles per game and have combined for nine sacks. They aren't overly fast ore aggressive, but both get to the ball well and disrupt lanes if allowed. Weakside linebacker Antwon Canady is in the top five in tackles, but his productivity is far below his counterparts. The line play has been mediocre, as the Cards have been pushed around by better opposing size. Louisville has racked up 14 sacks in eight games, an average of less than two per game with the vast majority of those against lesser foes. Tackles L.D. Scott and L.T. Walker, both between 6-2 and 6-4 and 270-300 pounds, have not controlled the middle as well as Kragthorpe would like, especially considering both are seniors. End William Savoy is the playmaker here, and he could cause issues for WVU's tackles. He leads the team with four sacks, but isn't getting a ton of help from the other side as fellow end Greg Scruggs is in just his third year of organized football.
The backside isn't faring much better, as Louisville allows a Big East sixth-best 224.4 yards per game. Foes are completing a whopping 67.1 percent of their passes, and UofL's pass efficiency rating is, not shockingly, dead last in the league. A bright spot has been corner Johnny Patrick. He has two picks to go with 39 tackles and three forced fumbles. Chaz Thompson, a converted corner, is the free safety. He needs to be more consistent in his reads. Per the usual with a poor defensive team, the FS ranks third in tackles. There's some size here, as just one starter is shorter than 6-0, but it hasn't translated to better success. West Virginia should have advantages here in the run and pass. Look for its line play to perform better than it did against South Florida. If it doesn't, there's no reason to think it can do well against any other team it faces this season. This is still a major college football contest; but if ever there were a late-season tune-up outing prior to games against top 20 foes, this is it.
|By The Numbers|
|Scoring Offense 29.8 ppg||Scoring Defense 27.6 ppg|
|Rushing Offense 182.5 ypg||Rushing Defense 147.4 ypg|
|Passing Offense 226.1 ypg||Passing Defense 224.4 ypg|
Advantage: West Virginia
WVU Defense vs. UofL Offense
This side of the ledger is a bit more even. Though the Cards are no longer the powerhouse passing team they were when Brian Brohm looked to Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas, among others, they frankly don't need to be against the Mountaineers. West Virginia was beat early and often, came off coverages to provide contain help for QBs – leaving receivers wide open for scores – and generally looked horrid against South Florida. Louisville's quarterback, whoever it may be with all three possibilities being listed as questionable, doesn't have the ability to run as did USF's B.J. Daniels. Adam Froman is the likely player under center to start the game. The junior has struggled of late and was replaced by Will Stein midway through the loss at Cincinnati. Froman (6-4, 227 lbs.) is 62-of-97 for 751 yards and three touchdowns. He has three picks. Stein, at just 5-10 and 173 pounds, lacks the physical and mental maturity to play well for elongated stretches at this level. The redshirt freshman needs one of two things: either a better ground game via the offensive line or simply more time to get better. Without either of those he is likely to experience significant growing pains as the season progresses.
The main target is Scott Long, who has caught 35 passes for 528 yards. His 68.9-yard average ranks sixth in the Big East. Josh Chichester, at 6-9 the tallest wideout on a FBS team, caught hia first career touchdown against UC. Doug Beaumont, a 5-9 the smallest of the trio (Long is 6-4), has caught at leats one pass in 20 straight games. He isn't as quick as Jock Sanders or Noel Devine, but the slot receiver has the ability to gain considerable yards after catch. Louisville's 225.5 passing yards per game rates fourth in the Big East, but is last in efficiency. WVU needs to show better backfield ability in this game, especially because the only major UofL threat is running back Victor Anderson. West Virginia should be able to pressure the signal caller and shut down some areas of the field. The issue is not giving up the big play.
Anderson averages 68.6 yards per game, almost 20 off his freshman season last year in which he was named the league's frosh of the year. He has suffered through multiple injuries this year, the latest a shoulder, but should be near 100 percent against the Mountaineers. He is unquestionably the offensive star, but the Mountaineers have held backs well this season and years past. Without the major passing game. Anderson is now the key, and will be the focus of the odd stack this week. This is a big line. Center Mario Benavides, a freshman, 6-4, 300 pounds. The guards average 6-5.5 and 307 pounds. But there's a mix of experience and youth, and the line still hasn't jelled. This might be the weakest offensive unit for both teams in the game.
|By The Numbers|
|Scoring Defense 22.4 ppg||Scoring Offense 20.2 ppg|
|Rushing Defense 99.1 ypg||Rushing Offense 142.2 ypg|
|Passing Defense 235.8 ypg||Passing Offense 225.1 ypg|
Advantage: West Virginia
WVU Special Teams vs. UofL Special Teams
Louisville has the players and talent to cause some issues here. Punt and kick returner Trent Guy is averaging 25 yards on bringing back kickoffs and 11.7 within the punt game. He makes a move and goes, often setting up the blocks by starting one way to create a cutback lane. He is as good as the Mountaineers have faced this season. And because WVU averages 37.2 yards per kickoff return, Guy has to like his chances. But UofL allows 37.3 itself, meaning Tavobn Austin should get some shots as well. The punting games are very close – though that gets tossed if Scott Kozlowski does not play after head coach Bill Stewart chastised him for kicking it into the end zone instead of trying for the corner when WVU punted at the 33-yard line. That was a move many fans and pundits have questioned, and Stewart has yet to adequately answer for. The placekickers are solid. Tyler Bitancurt has converted seven of eight tries, but isn't trusted consistently by Stewart's show of actions when Bitancurt has an opportunity for a 45-50 yard kick. Louisville's Ryan Payne has made eight of 13 kicks with one being blocked. His long is 42 yards.
|By The Numbers|
|Net Punting 37.7 yards per punt||Net Punting 36.7 yards per punt|
|KO Returns 24.0 yards per return||KO Returns 24.5 yards per return|
|Punt Returns 13.4 yards per return||Punt Returns 5.8 yards per return|
PICKS TO CLICK
On Offense: Josh Jenkins
On Defense: Keith Tandy
This is a difficult match-up for Louisville in terms of what both teams do well. The Cards have not stopped the big play, and it seems West Virginia has issues at times in piecing together consistent elongated drives throughout the game. The Cards are likely to get hit with some major gainers through the air and on the ground. That's fine, but does nothing for WVU having to operate consistently – an aspect it reads here many fans would like to see. Defensively, the Mountaineers should be able to slow Anderson and get some pressure on whatever quarterback Kragthorpe trots out. Louisville is overmatched here, as it has been all season. If it is indeed a four-game season as West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart noted, round one appears the easiest.
WVU – 30 UofL - 17