Additional South Florida Notes and Observations

Posted on Oct 22 2012 - 12:35pm by Nick Burch

Damian Copeland Damian Copeland #7 of the Louisville Cardinals makes a 21-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter against the South Florida Bulls during the game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 20, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville won 27-25.

-First thing’s first: a win is a win. Never forget that. However,……..yikes. It was ugly. It was dangerously close. It was frustrating. Yet, at the end of the day, 7-0 looks a lot better than 6-1 and we still remain atop the Big East standings with a legitimate shot at a BCS bowl. After that game, there is no legitimate argument against any analyst or writer who is saying that Rutgers is the class of the Big East right now. I know it was just Temple, but Rutgers as of this post looks like a much more complete team than we do right now. That is not to say the favor cannot shift towards us after the upcoming Friday night game (assuming we come to play), but no one should be shocked to see Rutgers ahead of us in the BCS poll.

-The positive in all of this is that the Cards were able to finish in the clutch. I am not sure this is a game we win last year in a similar situation. The go-ahead drive was so crisp, concise, and damn-near perfect, it made you wonder how the game got this close. I have not seen the offense that locked in for some time. Teddy simply took over. It cannot be said enough just how valuable he is. I have never in my time as a Cards fan seen a QB as focused and driven as he was on that final drive. When it is all said and done, I truly believe he will be the most valuable QB to ever put on a Louisville uniform. He was not too shabby the rest of the game, either. 21-25 254 yards, 2 TDs, 10 carries, 74 yards. Yeah…he was okay. RGIII-ish okay. I am of the crowd who will constantly scoff at measuring the greatness of QBs by how their teams perform because it is a TEAM that wins games, not one player. One player cannot do it if he does not have the defense, blocking, etc. Teddy was the exception to that rule on Saturday. He won this game for the Cards. In the air. On the ground. It was all him. Had we not had him taking snaps, and anyone other than BJ Daniels (who looked awful) was taking snaps for USF, this game likely turns out as an L. Teddy will be a top 10 NFL pick eventually, and I cannot wait for his episode of Gruden’s QB Camp.

-As great as Teddy is/was, it would take a complete lunatic to take the ball out of his hands. Yet, that is precisely what Shawn Watson appeared to be doing. Skip Holtz and USF did their homework, and credit them for that. They were able to completely shut down the run game. The Bulls’ D held Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright to a combined 22 carries for 56 yards (11 carries for each, 29 yards for Perry, 27 for Wright). That is 2.5 yards per carry. In other words, the run game was nonexistant. Yet, for some reason, Watson kept pounding it. On virtually every first down attempt and every 3rd and short situation, everyone on both sidelines as well as everyone in the stands knew what was coming: a run up the middle or a stretch play. When the run game is not working, and you have one of the premiere signal callers in college football, and he is dominating the game like he is, you let him do his thing. On the last drive, Teddy was allowed to do his thing, and we all saw what happened. I don’t know if Watson is trying to keep the confidence of his RBs or OL up or what, but it made no sense to continue to run the ball when it wasn’t working and Teddy was playing like he was.

-While the run game was shut down for Louisville, it was quite the opposite for South Florida, whose RBs averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Individually, USF RB Lindsay Lamar had a season best 110 yards on 15 carries (7.3 ypc), Demetris Murray followed with 13 carries for 57 yards (4.4 ypc), and Marcus Shaw in a limited role had 4 carreis for 30 yards (7.5 ypc). In other words, the Cards front 7 could not stop anything on the ground. It was not as if Skip Holtz was calling head-spinning genius offensive plays. They ran the read-option draw more times than I could count, and the Cards D simply could not or would not adjust. There was no secret about what they were going to run. Delayed hand-off, RB crosses from left to right, runs straight ahead. No one could stop it. For a D-Line that was so highly touted in preseason, it was certainly an area of weakness in the run game on Saturday. The LB corps was not much better (with the exception of Preston Brown, who worked his tail off with 19 tackles), and freshman stud Keith Brown appeared to overanticipate on quite a few runs.

-Here is the reason both the run game and the run defense concern me probably more than most. On September 13, Rutgers put up 151 yards at South Florida on the ground behind Jawan Jamison (who, along with Savon Huggins, is better than any RB USF has), and outside of BJ Daniels scrambling for 68 yards himself, the Rutgers D-Line held the Bulls RBs to 27 yards rushing. It was early in the season, and I admit it is a little bit of paranoia on my end, but still concerns me that Rutgers excelled so much at USF’s place where we struggled so much at our own place.

-Things weren’t all bad on the D-Line front. Lorenzo Mauldin is a freaking beast, and he along with other members of the D-Line like Marcus Smith and D’Angelo Brown, were putting constant pressure on BJ Daniels, and he clearly felt that pressure. He is going to be having nightmares about Maulding inparticular for quite some time. He was scary good on Saturday. With his backstory (see WDRB story Brent posted), he is a guy that is all too easy to cheer for.

-The personal foul call on Jermaine Reve was one of the worst calls I have seen in college football this year. It was a clean hit directly in the upper chest of the receiver, and he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct (or helmet-to-helmet, or whatever), which at the time was a very critical penalty. It’s freaking football. You can’t call a penalty on every hard hit. I completely understand helmet-to-helmet concerns and support that, but it is getting a little absurd. I usually don’t yell at games (ones I attend in person), but I was a little vocal on that one. I don’t know how many of you all watch South Park, but for those that do, we are getting dangerously close to turning this game into Sarcastaball (for those that don’t get that, Google it). The PI call on Adrian Bushell was equally terrible. The ball was nowhere close to catchable (unless the receiver had about an 8 1/2 foot vertical leap) and Bushell’s coverage was aggressive, but not illegal. Although the holding call on Preston Brown on the last drive was legit (despite what fans around me shouted), it was another episode of how terrible officiating in the Big East is.

-The secondary did not play bad, but a lot of that was because BJ Daniels was terrible. Credit a lot of that to the pressure the D-Line was getting on him, though. However, I am not sure what Andrew Johnson or Terrell Floyd did to tick off Strong, or whether they were hurt, but their absence was more than noticeable. Stephan Robinson filled in, and while no one can fault his effort, he was completely outmatched. On the go-ahead TD by USF in the fourth quarter, USF WR Andre Davis simply reached over him for an incredibly easy score. Robinson had the coverage, just not the height or vertical to beat him out for the play. Had that been Floyd or Johnson, it would very likely been a broken up pass or pick. Floyd magically got back in the good graces of the coaching staff on USF’s final drive, though, and played well. I will be interested to see what went down.

-As valuable as Teddy was, credit the WR corps as well, who played great. There were very few drops and some great catches made. It is still frustrating to see Devante Parker so little involved with the passing game (not sure if it’s the play calling, trouble getting open, double coverage, or whatever), but his one catch was huge. Damian Copeland is proving that the hype and praise he received from his open practice is more than warranted. He was outstanding on Saturday, with 5 catches for 93 yards and his first touchdown of the year. His catch out of the endzone from Bridgewater in which he tangled up with a USF DB was one of the best catches I have seen a Louisville WR (or any team’s WR for that matter) make this year. It was difficult, it was awkward, and he had to fight for it. A lesser WR would have given up. Copeland did not. Eli Rogers was impressive as well in his best game of the year. His go ahead TD catch was huge.

-As far as redshirts are concerned, I am going to go ahead and assume Dominique Brown will be using one. At this point, unless something critical happens to Perry or Wright, it makes little sense to use him for only half of a season when you can keep him for two whole seasons. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. Then, highly touted freshman OL Abraham “Nacho” Garcia burnt his. I saw him warming up on the sideline and got excited as well as anxious. I hate seeing redshirts burnt this late in the year, especially with talents like Garcia, but I understand we needed someone healthy. For the situation he was put in (first snaps all year as a true freshman, put in a crucial game where you are expected to protect the blindside of your most valuable teammate), he played very admirably. I am hoping to see more of him this year, especially being that his redshirt is now burnt. But who in the starting lineup takes that step down for him?

-I won’t go into too much detail here, but Special Teams needs work. Too many big returns and a blocked extra point that could have meant the game.

-Lastly, as I said in the opening bullet, a win is a win, no matter how you look at it. It feels a lot better to be 7-0 than 6-1 and the BCS is still within reach. There are obvious areas that need to be addressed for improvement, but none of those areas seem like they cannot be fixed. It needs to happen sooner than later, though. Friday night is a HUGE game. As Brent said, it is the biggest game since the blackout WVU in 2006. It will be the biggest test of the season and one where we will not be able to get away with all the mistakes that were made on Saturday. Coaches will have plenty of bulletin board material for the Cards on Friday night. Fans better show up and show their support. This is big for the team, and they need us there. Let’s have a big showing. No excuses.

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