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Final Thoughts and Observations on Louisville vs. Boston College

The Cardinals got back to over .500 for the 2021 season.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Louisville was able to get back in the right action to start the second half of the season, downing Boston College 28-14 to snap a two-game losing streak.

Before we close the book on the game and transition into week nine's contest at NC State, I wanted to provide some closing thoughts and observations from the game:

  • First, this defense absolutely deserves credit for their performance - both among players and coaches alike - particularly defensive coordinator Bryan Brown. He drew a lot of criticism for the uber-conservative play calling that has maligned Louisville all season, and it appears he took that to heart over the bye week. Only a handful of times did we see the three-man rush, but they were in situations that at least made some sense. Instead, he drew up an aggressive game plan where they packed the box, sent pressure more often than not, and it worked. Outside of two drives, Boston College never appeared to look comfortable on offense all afternoon, and only averaged 3.9 yards per play - the lowest in the Jeff Hafley era.
  • I remember Scott Satterfield making a comment after the Florida State game, where he said the offensive game plan didn't change from half-to-half, but the plays simply stopped working. I didn't really buy into that notion then, but I could see what he meant against Boston College. In a game where Louisville couldn't really establish a passing game, they were still able to put up yards with ease due to tremendous execution in the running game. There wasn't a *ton* of variety in their rushing attack, but it wasn't simply the same run over and over again. Which is impressive considering they ran 47 run plays to 17 passes.
  • There were a couple plays in the second quarter that I loved: the counter to Trevion Cooley and the wishbone-style option pass to Jalen Mitchell. If Satterfield can continue to call games like he did Saturday, and maybe sprinkle in a few wrinkles like the two aforementioned plays, the offense should be continue to be in good hands.
  • But, as you know, the offense wasn't perfect. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought I was in a wormhole to last season with how often Louisville gave away the football. I won't sound the alarm just yet considering turnovers haven't been an issue this season, but when you cough up the football four time in a game, it's something to monitor going forward.
  • After some, shall we say, less than stellar fourth quarters this season, it was nice to see Louisville finally close out a game. Yes, the defense did surrender a touchdown late, but they also forced a fumble on BC's next drive to ice the game. Plus, in between those drives, the offense was able to put a touchdown up on the board. Both side were able to pull their weight down the stretch, with was incredibly encouraging.
  • The legend of Malik Cunningham continues to grow. Against Virginia, we saw what he can do when his ability to run is taken away, this past weekend it was the opposite. He did not look that sharp throwing the football, tossing a deep ball to a double-covered Tyler Harrell for a pick instead of opting for Ahmari Huggins-Bruce wide open in the flats, and completely missing the linebacker on his second one. But, he more than made up that with an electric performance on the ground. BC could not stop him on both designed runs and scrambles, and he had a couple runs that were, dare I say, Lamar Jackson-esque. It's not often you see a quarterback lead the nation in rushing touchdowns, but here we are after a three-score performance.
  • Now let's show some love to the others on offense. Trevion Cooley will be a star when it is all said and done here, and Jalen Mitchell had a great day himself, but the offensive line deserves a massive shoutout. Not only did they create sizable rushing lanes all night long, but they kept Malik Cunningham upright all night long, not allowing a single sack. After looking abysmal in the first two games, this O-line looks like what we expected it to be.
  • It's hard to come away with many takeaways on how the wide receivers performed, but on plays where they were able to convert through the air, it was usually due to Marshon Ford and Jordan Watkins. Both has made themselves extremely reliable targets in this offense.
  • I’m not sure what to think of Hassan Hall anymore, or draw any opinion as to how Louisville should use him. When he’s on, he has games like he did against Virginia. But when he’s not, he’s an absolute liability. Louisville just happened to get lucky that his fumble didn’t play a larger impact against BC. He is the epitome of Jekyll and Hyde, with a ton of risk of you play him extended time, but potentially a lot of reward.
  • Even with how well the defense played, the defensive line didn't seem that impactful for a lot of the game, as most of the production (sacks, TFLs) came from the linebacking corps. Ryheem Craig had his first sack, YaYa Diaby got in on one, and Mason Reiger forced a fumble, but for the most part it didn't seem like they played a massive role.
  • Brown said during the bye week that a lot of regular starters and older guys got rest while younger guys took more reps. During the BC game, several young guys made some plays on defense. Josh Minkins came back from injury to snag an interception, Craig had his first sack, and Dorian Jones played will at Monty Montgomery's normal ILB spot. Guys like CJ Avery and Yasir Abdullah had their typical games, but it was great to see not only so many young guys get in, but making plays.
  • Trey Franklin might not be an NFL talent, but he has looked great over the last few games, snagging another interception. He has been a great addition to the secondary after they lost so many players in the offseason.
  • I am approaching the secondary's performance with cautious optimism. Yes, they performed well and held Dennis Grosel to just 17-of-32 for 141, but, Grosel routinely struggled to get the ball even 10 yards down the field. There's a reason BC had to run the ball so much, because they don't even have an intermediate passing game, much less a deep one. But it anything, they should use that game as momentum and something to build on moving forward.
  • Turnover margin check: dead even.
  • I'll close with this thought: Boston College might not be the team they were expected to be, especially after the loss of Phil Jurkovec, but a win should always feel good. The defensive game plan changed for the better, and the offense was able to put up points despite being handcuffed with four turnovers. Not all wins will be pretty. With a good (?) NC State team on the horizon, one can hope that Louisville will continue on the right path forward.

(Photo of Malik Cunningham: Jamie Rhodes - USA TODAY Sports)

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