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Points of Emphasis: Louisville vs. Boston College

Here are the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Louisville football's matchup with Boston College:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After securing a bounce-back win against USF, the Louisville football program is heading back on the road and resuming ACC play when they take on Boston College.

Here are some of the more notable storylines heading into Saturday's game:

Cardinals' Discipline, Effort Improving After Poor Showing in Early Season

A common theme in Louisville's first three games was a clear lack of discipline and effort. They were one of the most penalized teams in college football, there had been moments where the energy and effort on the field was noticeably absent, and big plays were given up on both sides of the ball

This past week against USF, Louisville took a much needed step forward in both departments. It played a huge role in the Cardinals putting together a wire-to-wire blowout, in which they won 41-3 over the Bulls.

Averaging 10.0 penalties per game heading into the USF game, they were only flagged for five penalties, with only three of them getting called outside of garbage time. Most importantly, they only committed one pre-snap penalty.

Adding to that, not only was Louisville playing a much more disciplined brand of football, but they were doing so while also looking much more engaged. Players were swarming to the ball, gang tackling whenever they could, and also did a good job at not deviating from their assignment. Even on offense, they looked like a more inspired and cohesive unit.

"To me, that’s the biggest thing, just focusing in each and every play," he said. "You can't take a play off. One play and you do the wrong thing, and all of the sudden it's a big play and we don’t look good. It all fits like a puzzle, and everybody has to be on point with their assignment."

Louisville Slowly Making Strides in Passing Game

As many Louisville fans know by now, the Cardinals' passing attack has been far from perfect through the first four games of the season. But since their matchup with Florida State - even though that game was a loss - Louisville has started to see some improvement in the passing game, and it is slowly started to make them a much more complete offense.

"We're kind of settling in as an offense to see where we're at," head coach Scott Satterfield said. "We would like to hit a few more throws down the field, we'll keep working at it, we'll keep trying to find ways. Obviously, the bottom line is to move the ball and score points. We just started out early in the season just not doing as well scoring points. The last two weeks, we've done a much better job with it."

Over the Syracuse and UCF games, QB Malik Cunningham was 30-of-51 (58.8 percent) for 353 yards and two interceptions. Against Florida State and USF, he was 35-of-56 (62.5 percent) for 429 yards, two touchdowns and one pick.

Another factor to consider is that the wide receivers are starting to find ways to generate more separation and get open for Cunningham. Part of that is the progression of the players themselves, and added wrinkles to the game plan by the coaching staff.

Eagles' Offensive Off to Horrendous Start to Season

Boston College's offensive line is not only one of the worst in the Power Five, but one of the worst in all of FBS football, period. They currently rank 126th nationally in sacks allowed per game at 3.75, and are 118th in tackles for loss allowed per game at 7.75. Only Stanford, Akron and Colorado State are worse than Boston College in both categories.

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As a result, the Eagles are only averaging 283.2 yards per game and putting up 20.8 points per game, both of which ranks outside the top 100 national. Boston College's run game, which has traditionally been their M.O., is only averaging 59.8 yards per game.

The lack of pass protection has started to impact quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who entered this season with potential high-round NFL Draft pick buzz. He's 78-of-129 on the year with 843 yards and seven touchdowns, but has already matched his career-high in interceptions with five.

Louisville Having Success at Applying Pressure

Louisville's run defense for the year still isn't great, allowing teams to rush for an average of 163.2 yards per game for 94th in FBS, but is coming off a phenomenal performance against USF. Facing a Bulls squad that had ran for 286 yards in a near-upset at Florida, the Cardinals held them to just 48 yards on the ground.

Plus, Louisville has already done a good job at applying pressure to begin with. They rank 13th in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss per game at 3.25 and 8.0, respectively.

"We’ve put more pressure on teams this year, which I think is awesome," head coach Scott Satterfield said. "Trying to kind of knock them off the sticks to create these third and long situations, and the defense does a much better job with that. We got to continue that as well this week.”

Louisville currently ranks fourth nationally in non-blitz sack rate so far this season. YaYa Diaby has had a sack in every game. Ashton Gillotte has three on the year. Yasir Abdullah is continuing to look like an All-ACC defender and Dorian Jones is coming into his own as linebacker as well.

Boston College Hoping to Avoid Slow Start Against Louisville

A common theme that has emerged in the Jeff Hafley era at Boston College is that the Eagles have, more often than not, found themselves operating from behind very early in the game. In their two games against ACC competition this year, at Virginia Tech and at Florida State, BC is a combined 48-3 in the first half. 

“Right now, we’re not good when we go down,” Hafley said. “I think it affects us, and we need to fix that.”

Hafley, only in his third season at Chestnut Hill and already considered a young coach when compared to his peers, is still learning on how to utilize scripted drives and how he can approach the rest of the game based on how the opposition reacts. It will be crucial if BC wants to avoid going down big early again.

"Because if you don't it's all of a sudden 21-0, before you can get your headset on then you gotta get off your script quickly," he said. "You got to adjust and adapt, gotta start fast, have to start fast, and I'm going to do the best that I can with that."

(Photo of Marshon Ford: Jamie Rhodes - USA TODAY Sports)

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