Some final thoughts on Louisville football’s narrow loss to Notre Dame.
This Louisville football season has started in the most “2020” way possible.
What began as a year with a lot of promise has turned into the Cardinals hoping to simply find some way to get above .500 by season’s end.
While not ideal, Louisville football turned in probably its best performance of the season in a 12-7 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday.
Here’s some quick final thoughts before we turn our attention to Florida State this week.
Monty Montgomery is my favorite 2020 Card
I predicted a big season last year from Monty Montgomery in the preseason and the back up outside linebacker wound up leading the team in sacks.
Now, in 2020, the junior is becoming a bona fide star on this team. Montgomery’s four sacks lead the team and put him in the top 10 in the nation.
It has become apparent that when Montgomery is on the field, Louisville’s defense is just different. Even at the linebacker spot, he may be the fastest player on this defense, and defensive coordinators Bryan Brown and Cort Dennison love to dial up some coverages that take advantage of that speed.
Ultimately, however, it’s Montgomery’s open-field tackling that makes him such a great weapon. He is a heat-seeking missile in one on one situations and he is so good at getting the ball carrier to the ground.
The guy is an absolute stud and hopefully he continues to get more playing time.
We are finally seeing Bryan Brown’s vision come to life
Saturday was really the first time it felt like Louisville’s defense was what Brown wants to implement.
His style is more a bend but don’t break defense. Never get beat over the top, keep everything in front of you, and when the timing is right, he dials up some unique blitzes and coverages that are extremely difficult for the quarterback to quickly diagnose.
All of that came to fruition thanks to some fantastic play from the Louisville secondary. Kei’Trel Clark returned and was dynamic at one corner position. The combination between Chandler Jones, Anthony Johnson, and Marlon Character on the corners was enough to hold things down in pass coverage.
We gave the strong safety position some hell after Louisville’s previous two games, so it should be noted that Jack Fagot and Isaiah Hayes were much improved on Saturday as well.
Those improvements in the secondary allowed for some timely blitzes and ultimately slowed a pretty solid Notre Dame offense.
The wind played a factor
This is where I become a bit pessimistic. I think it’s important to note that Louisville’s defense probably benefited a little from the strong winds in South Bend on Saturday.
It was apparent that Notre Dame wanted to try to expose the Louisville secondary early and often, but quarterback Ian Book struggled to find his rhythm and had some overthrows and off-target passes early.
While the long ball was pretty much taken away from both Louisville and Notre Dame, it should be noted that Louisville’s secondary benefited at least a little from Books arm being less of a factors than usual. Let’s see if the Cards can dial up a great game in the secondary against FSU as well before overreacting.
Let’s finally table the QB discussion
Enough is enough. The conversation around Louisville football replacing starter Malik Cunningham was probably a bit premature last week and it became apparent that was the case against Notre Dame.
16 for 19 for 191 yards and a touchdown, plus another 51 yards on the ground? Given that the Cardinals only had 7 offensive possessions all game, I’d say that’s a hell of a stat line against one of the better defenses in the ACC.
Cunningham didn’t force anything and looked closer to what we’ve come to expect from the redshirt junior.
Louisville must utilize its other weapons
Lastly, it is becoming more apparent that Louisville football needs to utilize more of its offensive weapons in order to have success going forward.
Having a player like dynamic wide out Tutu Atwell is awesome, but it’s tough to utilize him effectively when he is plan A and B in the passing game.
Louisville has some fantastic weapons in Dez Fitzpatrick, Braden Smith, and Justin Marshall who have seen their targets dwindle as the season has gone on.
Obviously the report between Atwell and Cunningham is strong but the offense will never become what it’s intended to be if the other guys- Especially Fitzpatrick- are not more involved.