Louisville football: Grading the Cardinals’ performance against Syracuse

Kei-Trel Clark #13 and Chandler Jones #2 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Kei-Trel Clark #13 and Chandler Jones #2 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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Nick Okeke #11 and Yasir Abdullah #22 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /


This was a group that really upped their play from last week. There were a lot of contributors that did their jobs at a high level.

The outside linebackers in particular were so impressive. Grading them alone, the outside backers would get an A+.

Yasir Abdullah continues to be the best pass rusher on the Louisville team and it’s not particularly. close. He has so much athleticism and uses it very well despite being an undersized 6’1″ 225-pounds.

He had a fantastic rush on his sack where he showed off his flexibility bending the edge and putting a monster hit on Syracuse quarterback JaCobian Morgan. That hit forced a fumble that Syracuse ended up recovering.

Regardless, it’s obvious that Abdullah does a lot of things well. He’s a fantastic athlete and he even gets out and plays some coverage in space.

Nick Okeke, who rotates with Abdullah, was also very active and generated a pressure on Morgan on a nicely ran stunt in the first half.

Rodjay Burns plays the “Card” position for Louisville and he is perfect for the role. A former corner, Burns has come into his own and played very well in his senior season.

Burns was laying big-time hits and had a sack of Morgan himself. I thought today was one of his better games defensively. He only had four tackles in total, but his presence was much bigger than that.

The middle linebackers played much more fundamentally sound football this week. Monty Montgomery seemed to find himself some more. And, while he was not the best player on the field for the Cardinals, made another jump up as he gets back to his regular level of play.

Newcomer K.J. Cloyd got some run with the starting defense as well and you could really see what he will have to offer as an athlete in the future for the program. Cloyd may see some additional time in the last couple of games.

C.J. Avery was caught out of position once or twice, but he was much more sound in his game this week.

Dorian Etheridge is not a big-time presence on the defense. But he does not make many mistakes. He’s quietly had a very strong senior season.

Overall, a very sound performance by the linebackers that deserves our attention. They are a very deep group across the board. If Avery and Etheridge are gone in 2021, Louisville fans should not fret.

Overall Grade: A-