Louisville Football Continuing to Struggle in Two Crucial Areas
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It has not been the smoothest start to the season for the Louisville football program. Coming off of an 8-5 campaign in 2019, the Cardinals now find themselves at 1-2 on the 2020 season and winless in conference play following their 23-20 loss to Pitt at Heinz Field.
Many factors play into why Louisville found themselves losing back-to-back games for the first time under second year head coach Scott Satterfield. At times, the offense hasn't been as crisp and the defense has still struggled with giving up the big play.
There are, however, two areas that the Cardinals have had a great amount of trouble dealing with in every game this season: offensive third downs and the field position game.
Louisville is just 14 for 41 on third downs so far this season, good for a conversion percentage of 34.1%. They went 9 for 16 vs. WKU, 4 for 14 against Miami and then finally only 1 for 11 at Pitt.
"We obviously have to get that cleaned up," Satterfield said following the loss to Pitt. Though he gave differing reasons as to why they struggled in that situation vs. Pitt than they did vs. Miami, it essentially boiled down to Louisville not being in ideal situations once they get to third down.
He's not wrong. Against Miami, Louisville's average distance on third down was 5.9 yards. It was even worse against Pitt, with the average distance ballooning to 9.5.
As much as issues on third down have played a role into Louisville's overall struggles three game in, the field position battle has arguing had a more profound albeit subtle impact.
The Cardinals have lost this battle in every game they have played so far. WKU's average starting field position was at their own 41-yard line compared to Louisville at their own 22-yard line. Against Miami, the Canes also won that battle 39 to 25 with Pitt also coming out on top 35 to 30.
Most of this can be directly attributed to the special teams unit, and more specifically the punting. While Logan Lupo didn't bobble any snaps or get blocked like he did against WKU, he had a couple lackluster punts in the first quarter against Pitt.
His first punt, which came from Louisville's own 12-yard line, traveled only 34 yards and was returned for 21 yards - resulting in a Pitt field goal. His second punt sailed only 40 yards to put the Panthers on their own 40-yard line, a drive that ended in a touchdown.
"The first half, we did not punt very well," Satterfield said. "We've got to do a better job punting the ball, we gotta be able to get the ball down and win some of those field positions. We have not won the field position battle in the three games."
While there might be more immediate issues for the Cardinals to deal with, such as turnovers (on both sides) or giving up big plays, these are two over-arcing issues that could go a long way towards turning the tide in favor of Louisville as the season goes on.
Louisville heads into their first bye week, and will pick up their three-game road trip on Friday, Oct. 9 at 12:00 p.m. vs. Georgia Tech
(Photo of Tutu Atwell: Atlantic Coast Conference)
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