Last weekend, Boston College took on a very talented and highly ranked Florida State team and put up a good fight. The Eagles fell short though, thanks in large part to a record-setting 18 penalties against BC. This week, BC football plays the 3-0 Louisville Cardinals on the road. We asked John Powell from Card Chronicle to answer a few questions about Saturday’s game.
1. Let’s start with Louisville’s record, 3-0. The Cardinals had close wins over Georgia Tech and Indiana, and also blew out Murray State. What are the feelings around the program right now, as opposed to the preseason?
CC: Coming into the year one I predicted a 3-0 start (actually, spoiler alert I predicted a 4-0 start) and for the most part the games have been about what I expected. I thought Georgia Tech would be close for a while and then they’d have a little separation at the end, I knew Murray state would be a runaway, and I figured IU would be 7 to 10 points most of the game. The Cards came out hot against IU and then fizzled late making it a clincher, but I’d say I’m around the same spot I felt back in late August as to what the team is and what they can do. They have some absolute weapons on offense but they also disappear at times, and the defense has some great individual contributors but the scheme I’m not 100% sold on yet. Lots of football left to play but I’m excited about how 2023 can turn out for this team.
2. Your quarterback, Jack Plummer, is on his third school now. He began at Purdue, before transferring to Cal and then Louisville. Could you talk a little about what it’s like to have him leading the offense now, taking over from Malik Cunningham who started the previous four years?
CC: Doctor Malik Cunningham finally graduated and the Cards, for the first time in well over a decade, actually have more of a pocket passer than someone who is looking to use his legs almost equally as often as he’s looking to thread a 15 yard seam route. It’s a different vibe for sure but Plummer was brought in specifically by Brohm to lead this team because he knew the offense well, could step right in and take on the QB1 position, and Brohm could let some of the younger guys and other transfers have an opportunity to get some reps under their belt before we see what next season holds in terms of an existing QB on the roster or having to bring in someone else to lead the team. When Plummer is on he can lead the offense very well, the concern has been he has been very inconsistent across the first three weeks where we can hit some big plays and then it appears as if the offense goes into hibernation mode for a quarter or two. With playmakers like Jamari Thrash, Kevin Coleman, Amari Huggins-Bruce, etc. and a guy like Jawhar Jordan out of the backfield there are too many weapons for this offense to stall out and go significant time without getting any points. Putting up a goose egg in the second-half against Indiana last week is a big concern, fortunately they dropped 21 in the first half and were able to hold on. Plummer will have to be much more consistent with hitting his targets and leading the offense if they expect to have an outside shot at competing at a championship level this year.
3. During the offseason, Louisville hired a new coach, Jeff Brohm, who signed a six year, $36 million contract. He previously coached at Purdue, making it to the Big 10 Championship game in 2022. Would you say Brohm’s hire has brought a renewed sense of expectations/hope to the team and the fanbase?
CC: I’ve answered a variation of this question for a few weeks now and my response is going to be somewhat similar in that bringing Jeff Brohm back into the fold is something that’s a bit beyond the realm of just hiring a new football coach. The Brohm family has been a part of U of L athletics for some 30-40 plus years and are huge members of the community here in Louisville as far as their contributions to youth athletics, the University of Louisville specifically, and their on field contributions which helped propel Louisville into a national spotlight during the tenure of both Jeff Brohm his brother Brian Brohm along with his older brother Greg and his father Oscar Brohm. I won’t go into details about the specifics which would bore your readers to death but the fan base had grown cold on Satterfield for various reasons, not limited to the fact that he flirted with other jobs and never really seemed comfortable in this position. He did a great job in 2019 taking a mismanaged roster and turning it into a winning team that first season but the trade off was immediately looking at other positions after the season was over. It was hard for him to get many of the fans back on board the following three years as they felt his true colors showed a bit. The difference with Brohm is him and his family growing up in this community, going to high school here, attending college here, and never really leaving the community (had a home in Louisville the entire time he was away) it wasn’t just another “we hired a hometown guy” type celebration but more of a welcoming back to someone who has been a part of the program and appears to want to be part of this community and University for the foreseeable future. There’s a sense of stability within the program and I think a lot of people are excited about what he could do. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the man can also win football games.
4. Aside from the opening game against Georgia Tech, in which the team gave up 34 points, the Cardinals defense seems to be playing very well. They shut out Murray State and only gave up 14 to Indiana. Do you think the defense’s play is a product of the talent on the field, the scheme, or a combination of both?
CC: I think I’m like most college football fans in that I love to see the big plays happen on defense. Let’s pressure the quarterback, let’s get sacks, let’s force fumbles, let’s get interceptions, let’s break up passes, let’s be overly aggressive, etc. But this defense isn’t really structured to do a lot of those things…the idea is to allow your front four to create pressure on their own and then allow the secondary to create such challenges at the second level so that the QB is forced into making poor decisions or forced out of the pocket so and the linebackers clean up the mess. If you look at the “havoc” stats Louisville is going to be pretty low in a lot of those rankings which is a major change from last year where they were near the top of the list in almost all of those categories. The good news is for fans the end result seems to be paying off pretty well. Yes Georgia Tech did put up 34 but 28 of those points came in a single quarter where the defense just looked completely out of sorts. With some adjustments at halftime the Cards shut down Georgia Tech in the second-half only allowing a late touchdown in the 4th to make it a close one and one of the touchdowns against Indiana was on a short field after an onside kick. The scheme may not be the most exciting thing in the world to watch, and it is frustrating that they can’t get the pressure that they used to in the past, but it’s hard to argue against the end results especially considering in the last ten quarters they’ve only allowed twenty points total.
5. You have two offensive skill players who have really been lighting up the stat sheet. Running back, Jawhar Jordan, has 344 yards, 4 TDs, and is averaging a whopping 10.8 yards/carry, and wideout, Jamari Thrash, has 14 catches for 329 yards and 4 TDs. What makes these two so difficult to defend?
CC: While the simple answer for Thrash is just speed he’s also a very good route runner and can make teams pay if they don’t bring him down at first contact. If you let him slip a tackle and get in open space he can pick up another 10-15 at ease due to his elusiveness and his ability to accelerate in open field. I’d urge your readers to search Jamari Thrash highlights from the last few weeks and see just how easy he’s getting behind the secondary for long passes or finding space in man and zone coverages. He’s extremely difficult to guard one-on-one so it creates a matchup problem for many of the defensive secondaries. The fun thing about Jawhar is that Brohm in the past has been a bit less enticed to utilize the running game, he’s never shied away from it, but he’s never had a back as skillful in my opinion as Jordan. Not only can he absorb hits and take blows but he also gets a chance to catch his breath when Wisconsin transfer Isaac Guerendo steps into the game and shares some of the wealth, along with Maurice Turner who helped lead a drive last week and cap it off with a touchdown himself. More than a handful of Jordans runs have come later in the game where he still has semi-fresh legs and can get in space with his breakaway speed and not be caught. I’d need to go back and check the numbers but I believe he now has two rushing touchdowns of over 70 yards and all three games has gone over a hundred yards on the ground. The balanced attack in the Brohm offense thus far has been difficult at times for defenses to adapt to BUT as I alluded to earlier it seems when we lean on one or the other we fall into the trap of letting defenses become more predictive and thus slowing down the offensive production.
6. Are there any players who might be x-factors (on offense or defense) that you would tell people to look out for?
CC: Beyond the players I’ve already mentioned I think defensively Ashton Gillotte is going to be someone who is in the backfield it’s just going to be a question of can he get home and make the play on a QB like Castallanous. If BC tries to throw the ball consistently I think players such as Jarvis Brownlee or Cam’ron Kelly will factor into the outcome of the game with their ability to not only provide excellent coverage but to force throws into places they likely can’t go. Getting Castallanous in space makes me a bit nervous from what I saw last week so hopefully the second level can do their job and contain.
7. Now that you guys are off to a 3-0 start, and the ACC as a whole seems to be a bit confusing this year, what are your expectations for the rest of the year? Are you expecting to compete for the ACC championship or is this just more of a ground-laying year for Brohm and his staff?
CC: Before the season began I was predicting an 8-4 finish, and that included a 6-2 ACC record. I’d say three games in that it hasn’t moved much considering the team is about where I thought they would be, and while some in the ACC are down, there’s a couple that I think are a bit better than I expected in Miami and Duke to mention it a few. I think for the Cards to have a realistic shot to compete for the ACC championship they can’t drop more than a single game in conference and I’m just not sure that’s where they are this year with this team. The point was belabored quite a bit in the offseason but the Cards schedule is very favorable, in fact it’s a schedule that I wish they had next year or the year after to really allow Brohm to take advantage of this opportunity. Can I envision a scenario where they get hot and maybe they do make a run at a championship game appearance? Sure, but I can also envision a scenario where this offense continues to hit hurdles and the defense instead of bending and not breaking breaks enough times to put them in that seven or eight win range hanging somewhere around 5th or 6th in the conference. I think posting eight wins or above continues the excitement within the program and people start to look forward into next year and beyond as to what they can really do and build with one of the best recruiting classes in the program’s history coming in last year. While the record may fluctuate a bit based upon who’s on the schedule I think the hope for all Louisville fans is that the best of the Brohm era is yet to come and in a few seasons they’re consistently considered a top two or three program in the ACC... If the conference still exists.
So there you have it, some insider information on the Louisville Cardinals. Thank you to John Powell and Card Chronicle for the help on this. The Eagles and Cardinals will play on Saturday at 3:30.