Louisville football: Cards vs. North Carolina State game day central

Louisville football will head back out on the road to take on a struggling North Carolina State team looking to become bowl eligible.

It was once said “What defines us is how well we rise after falling,” and for Scott Satterfield and the Louisville football program they’ll look to prove an embarrassing 52-27 punch in the mouth from Miami won’t define the 2019 season.

The Cards will go against a familar foe in the North Carolina State Wolfpack, an opponent they’ve traditionally had success with since moving to the ACC but have struggled against the last two seasons.

NC State head coach Dave Doren had to have known he’d have his hands full this season trying to replace the incredible group of talent that was lost from last season’s 9-3 season and thus far it’s been quite a challenge.

The Wolfpack sit at 4-5 and have lost four of their last five games, losing three by more than 21 points. They’ve played three quarterbacks this season, all of whom have had their ups and downs, but have recently landed on freshman Devin Leary.

While he’s not been impressive by any means, Leary has improved week to week and with help from running back Zonovan Knight they’ll look to take advantage of a Louisville defense that gave up 52 points to a team that was no better than middle-of-the-pack (no pun intended) offensively.

Louisville will look for major improvements defensively against NC State but offensively they’ll look to keep things rolling behind the play of quarterback Micale Cunningham and his primary weapons, running back Javian Hawkins and receiver Tutu Atwell.

In last week’s loss to Miami, the Louisville offense was still electric accruing 496 total yards compared to the Hurricane’s 449. They did so behind strong running from Hawkins, who is just 22 yards away from becoming the first running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for Louisville since Bilal Powell in 2010, as well as Tutu Atwell.

The offensive trios were one of the bright spots in a game that didn’t feature much to be happy about for anyone around the Louisville program. Going up the 58th best total defense, Louisville will look to keep things rolling in the big play department but will likely have to do so without star left tackle Mekhi Becton.

NC State’s defense is one that offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford is quite familar with, having coached in Raleigh for the last four seasons before leaving to take a job with his former boss at Louisville.

There’s an advantage for Louisville with Ledford having deep knowledge and understanding of Dave Doeren and his offensive style of play, even without former offensive coordinator, Eliah Drinkwitz, who also left the Wolfpack this summer to replace Scott Satterfield as the head coach at Appalachian State.

While Louisville should be able to hold the defensive line of NC State, the defensive line of Louisville will have to show improvement after giving Miami quarterback Jarren Williams all day to throw.

Against Miami, Louisville’s defense struggled in every way imaginable and while the secondary may have received the most criticism it was the pass rush that was rendered the most ineffective by the Hurricanes.

Yes, giving up six touchdowns to a quarterback who’s been in and out of the lineup this season is bad, but giving him all day to throw makes things a ton more challenging for the secondary. NC State is tied at 46 in the country in sacks allowed this season under the tutelage of Ledford’s replacement, John Garrison.

Louisville will look to pressure and confuse freshman quarterback Devin Leary, who will be making his third consecutive start for the Wolfpack and looks to be the guy moving forward. In six appearances at QB, Leary has thrown for 651 yards and four touchdowns but has only completed 44 percent of his passes averaging just 5.7 yards per completion.

North Carolina State will rely heavily on running back Zonovan Knight to carry the load, which could bode well for Louisville who has been fairly effective in stopping the run.

To me, it’s simple (but I am no means a football expert, let me get that out there). If Louisville can get pressure on Leary and force him into arid and ineffective passing while establishing the run on the other side of the ball, this one should be a fairly easy win.

You can never discount an ACC opponent, but NC State has simply not been a very good team this season. However, if Louisville comes in still hungover from last weekend’s performance you may see some of the same results we did in Miami. Big passing plays. Sloppy tackling. And of course, sloppy, penalty-ridden football.

Here’s everything you need to get ready for Saturday’s game.

Who: Louisville Cardinals (5-4) at North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-5)

Where: Carter-Finley Stadium

When: 7:30 PM, Raleigh, NC

Spread check: Lousiville -4 (Courtesy of the Action Network)

How to watch: ACC Network

How to listen: 790 WKRD AM in Louisville and surrounding areas

Game time weather report: 40°, 70 percent chance of rain, 16 mph wind

Uniform check:

Players to watch:

Adonis Boone, LT – Louisville

When you have depth issues like the Louisville football program does this season the loss of any player hurts. But when you lose your future potential NFL first-round left tackle the outlook of your season can change in an instant.

When Mekhi Becton went down with a foot injury during the Miami game it was almost like the season flashed before our eyes. The 6’7, 340-pound junior has been the force behind the strong running run game that’s currently ranked inside the top 30 nationally.

We’ve seen Becton literally toss around his competition this season and it’s a huge part why the Cards have been able to do what they’ve done on offense. In his place will be sophomore Adonis Boone, who has earned a ton of playing time recently at both the tackle and guard spot for Dwayne Ledford.

Last week while playing in relief for Becton, Boone provided solid blocking and the Cards were still able to continue running the ball at the level they’ve been used to all season. This week if Becton can’t go, Boone will have to man the left side of the line and protect the backside of Micale Cunningham.

While Boone is no means comparable to Becton, he has shown great athleticism, power, and burst of the ball this season when he’s seen the field and you should expect to see that on display this weekend.

Devin Leary, QB – North Carolina State

In the pursuit of replacing multi-year starting star quarterback Ryan Findlay has proven to be a rather difficult challenge for Dave Doren and the NC State Wolfpack this season.

Through nine games, Doren has played three quarterbacks including Mat McKay and Florida State transfer Bailey Hockman, before landing on freshman Devin Leary who will get the call against Louisville this weekend.

While his numbers haven’t been great thus far, Leary has shown flashes of the talent that made him a four-star quarterback in the class of 2018. Unfortunately for him, his first two career starts both ended in terrible beatdowns, including a 44-10 loss to Wake Forest and a 55-10 finish against Clemson.

Against Wake Forest, another team with a suspect secondary, Leary was limited to just 17 completed passes on 45 attempts for 149 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Louisville will look to follow the same game plan and bounce back from last weekend’s debacle.

After losing star receivers Jakobi Meyers and Kelvin Harmon last season to the NFL Draft, Leary’s weapons haven’t been able to provide the same downfield threats and it’s shown in the offensive statistics. The Wolfpack currently only average 5.18 yards per play while Leary’s passes have gone for an average of just 5.7.

For Louisville to have a big day defensively it’ll start with putting pressure on Leary. The NC State offensive line has done a nice job of protecting Leary since he took over, only allowing a combined four sacks against Clemson and Wake Forest, and they’ll honestly probably have the upper hand on Saturday.

Louisville’s pass rush hasn’t been horrid by any means this season, but against teams with quality offensive line’s they’ve struggled to get into the backfield and cause disruption. If there’s pressure on the quarterback it could and should completely change the way the game is called and played by the Louisville secondary.

Leary has been extremely inefficient and big plays haven’t existed, and if Louisville is able to follow the game plans set before them,  they should be able to limit Leary.

Chandler Jones & Marlon Character, CB – Louisville

There wasn’t a part of the game for Louisville that was more criticized last weekend than the play of the secondary. By no means does the 52-28 loss fall squarely on their shoulders, but it is more than obvious when you look at the numbers of the Miami offense that the secondary’s play was bad.

Starting with Chandler Jones and Marlon Character, Lousiville will have a chance for a big bounce-back game against a freshman quarterback and an offense that struggles to move the ball. Leary will look to get receivers Emeka Emezie, Devin Carter, and tight end Cary Angeline more involved, all of whom struggled against the Clemson defense last week. Both Emezie and Carter are big targets, at 6’3 and 6’4 respectively, that present matchup problems for Jones and Character, who have shown to struggle with more physical receivers.

Jones and Character, along with the other members of the secondary, will rely on their front seven to be able to get pressure on a young quarterback and I expect them to come up with a few turnovers and limit the passing attack of the Wolfpack.

Larrell Murchison, DT – North Carolina State

Much like Miami, North Carolina State has a big-time pass rusher who will line up over the guard and center this weekend in defensive tackle Larrell Murchison. This season the 6’3, 291-pound has wreaked havoc on opposing defenses both in the run and passing game. The graduate senior leads the team in sacks this season with seven sacks and is fifth in total tackles.

We saw how much defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau changed the game for Miami last weekend, even when he wasn’t able to get to the quarterback. Coming into the game with 12 sacks, Rousseau required extra attention for the Louisville offensive line due to his ability to get into the backfield, and it resulted in Miami’s other rushers getting to the quarterback time and time again.

Miami finished that game with three total sacks and an incredible 14 tackles for loss and if they aren’t able to shore up their interior presence, Murchison could have a big day.

Predictions:

Jacob Lane: Louisville 38, North Carolina State 21

  • Micale Cunningham throws for 250-plus yards
  • Louisville’s defense forces three turnovers
  • Tutu Atwell and Javian Hawkins both cross the 1,000-yard mark

Presley Meyer: Louisville 45, North Carolina State 35

  • Louisville pushes ahead for big lead but North Carolina State creeps back in late
  • Javian Hawkins goes over 1,000 yards with a 150-yard performance
Next: 3 things to watch vs. North Carolina State
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