Slow Start Last Week on Offense Can’t Become a Trend
In the Cardinals’ 34-31 win over rival Cincinnati last week, they finished the night with a season-high 524 yards of total offense, including a career-best 416 yards passing from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. However, those final numbers could have been even better were it not for a very slow start for the Louisville offense. The Cardinals managed just 111 yards on their first five possessions of the game and trailed 17-14 at halftime. Though they did respond to the struggles with a dramatic win, they know they must return to their trend of starting fast offensively entering this Saturday’s BIG EAST home game against Temple (noon ET, ABC).
“We didn’t exactly start that game as a ball of fire,” said Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. “I didn’t like our start and none of the players did either. The good thing is that through some adversity that we created on ourselves, we were able to fight back and we finished really strong. The kids played a really good game. We were physical in the run game. It was probably the third or fourth series when we really started playing. We can’t do that. We can’t start slow. We did not play our brand of football to start that game. Usually, we start fast and we didn’t. I think that had us reeling because of the way we started the game. Once we got on the same page with everybody, we took off. There was a little attention getting we had to do. We don’t want to have to go through that exercise again.”
Film Reveals Impressive Front Seven from Temple
The visiting Owls are led defensively by freshmen linebackers Tyler Matakevich and Nate D. Smith, the top two tacklers on the team. Matakevich leads Temple with 56 stops this season, including three for loss, while Smith is second on the team with 51 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. Despite struggling at times, the Owls have talented players surrounding both Matakevich and Smith on the defensive side of the ball and the game film has revealed more than enough proof for the Cardinals.
“Their front seven is very good,” said Louisville senior offensive lineman Mario Benavides. “They have four really big defensive linemen and they’re high motor guys. Nate Smith, the middle linebacker, is a really good player and he makes a lot of tackles. There’s definitely no over-looking them. As far as we go, we judge people based on film and we always go into the game respecting people. As for what Temple has shown us on film, they’ve shown us a lot.”
Offense Distracted by Improvement, Not Last Week’s Scores
Temple enters this week’s game following back-to-back BIG EAST losses to Rutgers and Pittsburgh where they allowed at least 35 points in each outing and surrendered a season-high 528 yards of total offense to the Panthers in last week’s 47-17 road defeat. Despite those results, the Cardinals say they are much more concerned with what they need to do better on offense than what the Owls have done recently on defense.
“We don’t look at scores. That’s just not our demeanor and that’s not our culture here,” said Watson. “We’re more concerned with us because our whole objective is for us to get better. In order for that to happen, there are plenty of things from the Cincinnati game that we have to fix. We just keep working. We don’t ever talk to the kids about schedule. We don’t ever talk to them about records. We don’t ever talk to them about the last game. Now, I’m sure their aware of those kinds of things, but honestly, we are more concerned with the way we coach our players and it being about us.”
Parker Translates Big Plays in Practice to Game Action
Louisville coaches were not surprised with sophomore receiver DeVante Parker’s breakout performance (4 catches, 120 yards, 2 touchdowns) in last week’s win over the Bearcats. Before scoring his 30-yard touchdown reception and his 64-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of last Friday’s triumph, the 6-3, 204-pound Parker had shown the same type of game-changing plays in practice and the UofL coaches knew it was simply a matter of time before it translated to a game.
“I think what you saw on (Friday) is what he’s been doing in practice,” said Watson. “He’s been delivering big plays in practice and he does it every day. There was a time there, for whatever the reason, where maybe he was in a little bit of a slump or trying to find himself. Players go through all kinds of emotions, but he ended up having two really good weeks of practice the last two weeks. You could sense that he was coming on and he looks very fresh. He’s running very fast. He’s put some real speed on film in practice and we just knew that he was poised to do something special. In our offense, all of those kids get targeted and he took advantage of his opportunities.”