Opponent: Missouri State Bears
Record: 0-1 (lost opening game to Kansas State 51-9)
Conference: Missouri Valley
Head Coach: Terry Allen (7th season at MSU with a 25-42 record)
Game Time: 3:30 p.m. at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
TV / Radio: WHAS and WHAS 84 (also on satellite channel 80)
Broadcasters: Drew Denner and Doug James (TV) Paul Rogers and Doug Ormay (Radio)
Tomorrow’s game will be the first ever meeting between the hometown Louisville Cardinals and Missouri State Bears. Louisville is 14-6-1 all time against other schools from the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bears are fresh off a seemingly bad loss to Kansas State last weekend in Manhattan, 51-9, though they trailed by only 3 at half and hung with the Wildcats for much of the game. Louisville defeated in-state rival Kentucky 32-14 at home and looks to move up the polls this week with another convincing win. Terry Allen is entering his 7th year as Missouri State head coach and he’s put together an interesting team capable of testing the young Cards tomorrow. Despite their loss last weekend, the Bears still amassed 418 yards including 323 through the air. Their dynamic spread offense is not easy to defend and they boast several worthy playmakers at the wide receiver positions. Missouri State also netted 95 rushing yards and are capable of hitting opponents with a fairly balanced offensive attack. Despite moving the ball well last week against Kansas State, much like Kentucky’s woes against Louisville, the Bears had critical turnovers in the red zone and missed a few key opportunities. Wide receiver Julian Burton fumbled near the goal line in the first quarter to squander a sure touchdown and then later in the game a dropped pass from Cadarrius Dotson erased another potential score. Though they lost by 42, the game was much closer than the final score would indicate.
Missouri State is led by QB Ashton Glaser, a Missouri transfer, who completed 22-44 passes for 257 yards last week. Those 323 yard were good enough for the top mark in the Missouri Valley Conference and 10th overall nationally. In short, the Bears can move the ball through the air. Louisville’s secondary of Adrian Bushell, Terell Floyd, Andrew Johnson, Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith should be tested early and often, particularly after a week in which they let Kentucky effectively pass the ball. Now, granted, UK had installed a hurry-up no-huddle offense that proved difficult to prepare for, but the fact still remains that there are definite areas of concern for the Cards. However, Pryor and Smith teamed to force three fumbles and combined for 19 tackles and made plays in critical situations. Louisville’s defensive line didn’t get much penetration last week and only recorded two sacks (one of which came from Floyd in the secondary). I have a distinct feeling that defensive line coach Clint Hurtt and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford made life extremely difficult for those linemen this week in practice so I fully expect more pressure and blitzing tomorrow. Buford should also be a point of emphasis for Bedford as he torched a solid K-State secondary with 7 catches and a 114 yards. But Dotson is the main focal point of the MSU receiving corps. He had 6 receptions for 82 yards last week which helped him to eclipse the career 1,000 yard mark. He’s also only 6 catches from hitting another milestone, 100 career receptions. Once again, the Louisville secondary will have its collective hands full.
On the other side of the ball, Missouri State will have to contend with what appears to be the makings of a prolific offense. The Cards scored just 32 points last week, but they pulled starter Teddy Bridgewater late in the 3rd quarter after he set a UofL record with a 90% completion rate on 19-21 passes. A young but experienced offensive line also opened up gaping holes all day for the running back tandem of Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry, who combined for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns. Worse news still for the Bears, is that a third running back, projected starter Dominique Brown, should be back in action after sitting last week. As previously mentioned, the Bears hung with K-State for long stretches of the game last week, but talent and depth prevailed late and the Wildcats ripped off 42 unanswered points. Expect more of the same this week against a deeper team with more complete parts. Here’s the bottom line: Missouri State is just 1-26 all-time against FBS schools and Louisville will look to work out some kinks from last week’s defensive effort. I don’t expect Bridgewater to play in the 4th quarter again, so the Louisville offense might not score into the 50’s, but style points with back-up QB Will Stein are a distinct possibility and a huge win is likely in-store.
Prediction: Louisville 49 Missouri State 10