Ahead of the Virginia Cavaliers’ noon contest with the Louisville Cardinals tomorrow, we sat down with John Powell from Card Chronicle. If you want to read my thoughts on tomorrow’s game, check out my answers to their questions in this story from yesterday.
Now, let’s jump into our questions for John.
Louisville and Virginia seem to have taken pretty similar paths so far this season with each sitting at 2-3 and winless in the ACC. What’s been going on with the Cardinals? Has this been relative to expectations?
Prior to the season there was a segment of the fanbase who were “high” on Louisville and were murmuring the nine wins possibility. While I think they were a bit “high” on something else, there were reasonable expectations on the table that seven wins was not only a possibility but a realistic target for a team with a sixth year QB, some returning talent on defense, and some transfers looking to make a mark.
While one week does not make a season, coming out flat Week 1 against Syracuse and fans seeing more of the same from this team and this staff kind of tanked expectations early. Lack of creativity in play calling, penalties, poor fundamentals, defense that struggles to make stops, no on field comradery, etc. While mathematically possible to still reach that target, nothing on the field indicates the Cards will be postseason eligible, and that my friends is a big problem for a fourth year Coach looking to show progress.
Malik Cunningham seems to be having an up and down year and got banged up against Boston College. What is known about his status and what would the Louisville offense look like with him and without him on Saturday?
At the time I’m writing this he is still day to day. On Monday Satterfield talked a bit more openly about the injury and then Tuesday on his weekly radio call compared it to the likes of Tua in terms of seemingly being okay to go on one drive, and not cleared to go on the next. While concussion protocols should always be taken seriously I think in light of what we’ve seen around the country as of late teams are going above and beyond to make sure guys are 100% clear before placing them back on the field.
If Malik plays, the offense will once again run through him, quite literally as his downfield passing has again been suspect, and he seems to get the Cards out of jams with his legs more so than his arms in weeks past. He can still make throws, but the bevy of Cards receivers who either graduated or transferred (i.e. Tyler Harrell - Alabama, Jordan Watkins - Ole Miss) have left a hole which has not been filled by guys who can consistently get open. The UVA secondary has looked pretty solid thus far so my thoughts are we see more RPO, and outside zone to try and attack the front seven.
If Malik is out, Brock Domann is likely the guy to get the reps, and his performance last week didn’t really give fans a high level of confidence about his ability to make throws consistently. Yes, there were some questionable calls or non-calls, and yes he had a couple where guys didn’t really help out downfield but a 1-8 outing last week for 19 yards is…uh, not great. The Cards will still likely look to Tiyon Evans, Jawhar Jordan, or Trevon Cooley to get the run game going and try and sprinkle in some “Domann Dimes” here and there. No matter what, be prepared for outside runs on 3rd and medium and designed draw plays on 3rd and long. Satterfield has those tattooed on his forehead.
Who else should UVA be aware of for Louisville on the offensive side of the ball?
I touched on a couple of the RBs above, but outside of them keep an eye on Ahmari Huggins-Bruce. The guy has some speed and is still averaging over 15yd/rec mid-season. They need to get him the ball more and let him make plays in space. The other guy who was preseason All-ACC and has seemingly disappeared from the offense is TE Marshon Ford. He only has 14 receptions on the year after finishing 2021 with 49 for 550 yds and a couple tuddys. Hopefully they realize the weapon they have out there at some point. With that said, I like Jawhar Jordan to have a big day on the ground.
The three ACC teams the Cardinals have played have together averaged 33.3 points per game. What’s been the weakness for Louisville on the defensive side of the ball and how do you expect that to play out against the struggling UVA offense?
There are some major problems on that side of the ball Zach, to the point where Satterfield came out on Monday and said he’s inserting himself into the defensive room the rest of the season to assist with schemes, play calling, etc. It’s not just the 370yd/g they are giving up or the 23.4pt/g being allowed but its HOW they are doing it. Not being sound in your assignments, not showing hustle to get to the ball, and consistently giving up big play after big play. The Cards are last in the ACC in plays over 20 yards (31), 40 yards (8), and 50 yards (5) and those plays always seem to come at crucial times. It would not be uncommon for them to have a series with a first down sack, a second down incompletion, and then a third down 40 yard gain. The positives of the first two plays are quickly negated by a big play that either flips the field or gives up a score.
The big concern, though, is play calling and having guys in the right position. A play that stuck out all week was when the very talented wideout for BC (Zay Flowers) got matched up one on one with a safety and no deep help. You can already predict the result, and so could BC who got him for a 69 yard touchdown to take the lead in the 3rd. That crap can’t continue to happen.
Louisville sits as three-point favorites for this weekend’s game. Does that line up with your projection for this game? How do you see it playing out?
The guys in the desert who had to sit down and crunch the numbers on this one deserve a pay raise because I have no idea how you can judge either one of these teams in terms of their consistency, and past performance. I saw Brennan Armstrong look like freaking Peyton Manning last year in Louisville and now the guy can’t hit the Tommy J statue from the steps of the Rotunda, if you know what I mean. If Malik plays he can still hurt you with his legs but his throws have been a bit off and he is one wrong hit from being down for the day. If he doesn’t play the Cards are throwing in Brock D to go to work and his completion percentage is lower than the graduation rate at West Virginia.
To say both teams “need” this win is an understatement. Reaching the halfway point of the season with zero ACC wins and two games under .500 paints a bleak picture for the last half of the year. Cards have gone L-W-L-W-L in the first five, I think the pattern holds and they pull out the victory in another close but ugly game. Cards pick up some momentum and some “juice” from ‘The Juice Laundry’ on their way out of town heading into the bye week feeling optimistic. Cards 23 - Cavaliers 17
Thanks to John for taking the time to provide us with his perspective on Louisville! You can follow John on Twitter here. Stay tuned to the blog as we head into tomorrow and be sure to join us in tomorrow’s game thread!