The Daily Nole

FSU Football: First Look at Louisville

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A bounce-back 37-19 win for Florida State has given the Seminoles hope heading into their second road game of the season. The first was a 30-7 shellacking at the hands of the Syracuse Orange, but FSU feels a bit better about the situation against the Louisville Cardinals.

Neither team has gotten off to the start they thought they would. Louisville expectedly lost big to Alabama, but a 27-3 loss against the Virginia Cavaliers has many wondering what’s going on with Bobby Petrino’s squad. Are these the same Cardinals who came in to Doak Campbell Stadium last year and handed FSU another heartbreaking loss? Not exactly.

2018 Record: 2-2 (0-1 ACC)
2018 S&P Offensive Ranking: 109th
2018 S&P Defensive Ranking: 57th
2018 S&P Special Teams Ranking: 63rd

On Offense

The chickens have come home to roost for Bobby Petrino now that Lamar Jackson is no longer dazzling his way all over the field. Petrino’s offense has legitimately cratered to start 2018, and the Cardinals have a quarterback decision to make heading into the Florida State game.

Initially Jawon Pass was the starter and most thought he’d run the offense fairly well. Instead, he’s thrown two touchdowns compared to five interceptions on just over a 50 percent completion rate. He was replaced by Malik Cunningham during the home opener against Indiana State and stayed on the bench during a close win over Western Kentucky. But Cunningham struggled against the Virginia Cavaliers last week, and Pass was once again the quarterback in the second half. It made no difference, as the Cardinals stumbled their way to a 24-point loss.

Cunningham is the team’s leading rusher by far. He has 209 yards on the ground, while the running backs Dae Williams, Jeremy Smith, and Colin Wilson each have under 75 yards. That running ability is what made Cunningham look like the spark the offense needed, but his forgettable 198 passing yards on 5.82 yards per attempt also shows his limits. It’s almost a slight advantage for the Cardinals since they aren’t sure which direction they’ll go for the FSU game.

If the quarterbacks can get it to their receivers, they have a nice trio of playmakers. Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick, and Seth Dawkins all have over 100 yards and average more than 12 yards per reception.

On Defense

Louisville’s defense is still a mystery four games into the season. The Alabama game isn’t indicative of anything, since the Crimson Tide are going to run through everybody, so really you’re looking at games against Indiana State, Western Kentucky, and Virginia. The conclusion? Louisville has a “bend-don’t-break” defense that bends pretty far back.

The Cardinals have given up over 430 yards through the air in their past two games, but they have limited quarterbacks to around seven or eight yards per attempt. Still, offenses have found that the Louisville secondary has major holes at cornerback, which FSU should attack with athletes like Tamorrion Terry and Tre’Shaun Harrison. One exception is cornerback Rodjay Burns, who has gained the reputation of a playmaker. Safety Dee Smith is also a versatile player who plays great near the line of scrimmage

More concerning for Louisville is its run defense. On paper, the Cardinals have a solid defensive line. Defensive ends Jarret Jackson and Tabarius Peterson are nice edge setters, while interior lineman G.G. Robinson has come on strong in 2018. Yet for some reason Louisville can’t consistently force offenses off the field. Western Kentucky had three backs gain over 4.5 yards per carry while Virginia rushed for over 200 yards and one touchdown.

On Special Teams

Kicker Blanton Creque is as reliable as they come in the college game. He’s a perfect 8-for-8 on extra point attempts and 4-for-4 on field goal attempts. Creque hit the game-winner in last season’s victory in Tallahassee. Punter Mason King averages over 43 yards per kick and has certainly received plenty of chances to show what he can do. Rodjay Burns is a dangerous punt return man who has already housed one this season.


Florida State rolls in to Louisville with the slightest amount of momentum. Last Saturday’s win over Northern Illinois gave glimpses of what the offense should look like when everyone is on the same page, in addition to key adjustments made by the coaches. Meanwhile, Louisville still hasn’t decided on a starting quarterback and struggled mightily against an OK Virginia defense.

If the Seminoles cough it up four times like they did against the Huskies, Louisville has to like its chances. Neither offense will be running much at all, so once again it becomes a question of whose arm do you trust more? Deondre Francois appeared much more comfortable within the offense recently and started to open up downfield. Opportunities are there for the Seminoles to score early on the Cardinals.

Once again, Florida State’s defense will be susceptible to deep balls. If Northern Illinois could connect on a couple, Louisville will absolutely test the secondary as much as it can. Defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett needs to keep his players focused.

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  1. Pingback: Monday afternoon Cardinal news and notes - Louilink

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