Cardinals Prepare for Blitzing Orange
In Saturday’s road game at Syracuse (Noon ET, ABC), the No. 9 Cardinals expect to contend with a blitzing, aggressive defense that will attempt to disguise its formations. Led by fourth year defensive coordinator Scott Shaffer, Syracuse limited Connecticut to minus-6 yards rushing on 18 attempts (-0.3 yards per carry) in a 40-10 win on Oct. 19. The performance was SU’s best run-stopping effort since holding West Virginia to minus-10 yards on 35 attempts in 1996, while three of Syracuse’s five best performances against the run since 1990 have come since Shafer took over as defensive coordinator in 2009.
“They do a really nice job. They’re a multiple defense and they have a lot of different blitz concepts,” said Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. “They blitz by opponent so I know there will be things they’ll have for us that we haven’t seen that they’ll try to use to stop the things we do. It’s up to us to do a great job of changing our look. We change our look every week to make people chase us. Hopefully, we’ll create some doubt on our end on how we’re going to come out and what we’re going to do.”
Perry, Wright Give UofL an Impressive 1-2 Punch at RB
Junior running backs Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright have given the Cardinals a talented and explosive rushing threat this season. Perry leads Louisville with 703 yards on 134 carries (5.2 yards per rush) and 11 touchdowns, while Wright has 651 yards on 138 carries (4.7 yards per rush) and nine touchdowns. Combining for more than 150 yards rushing per game and more than two scores per outing, the Perry-Wright tandem have helped make Louisville the second highest scoring offense in the BIG EAST and unbeaten through nine games.
“I’m so excited for them. They’ve worked their butts off and they’ve done everything they’ve needed to do,” said Cardinals’ running backs coach Kenny Carter. “Shawn’s going to do everything within his power and within the plan to give them the opportunity to take advantage of that. Jeremy got his (100 yards against Temple) on 10 carries. That’s unheard of. Most backs need to average between 23 and 25 carries to get to that point. The offensive line and the receivers are doing a great job down the field. Those guys (Perry and Wright) are doing what they’re being asked to do at a high level and that’s why they’re having success.”
Increased Emphasis Leads to Better Efficiency in Red Zone
Following the completion of the 2011 season, the Louisville coaches made the decision to put a greater emphasis on the team’s offensive efficiency in the red zone. Last season, the Cardinals scored on a solid 84 percent (31-of-37) of their red zone chances and converted for touchdowns 62 percent (23-of-37) of the time. The increased practice time and reps in the red zone leading up to and during 2012 has led to a significant improvement this season as Louisville has scored on 38-of-39 chances (97 percent) so far this season, including 30 touchdowns in those 39 opportunities (77 percent).
“Offensively and defensively (in February), we do a scheme evaluation and what that does is it forces us to be really critical of us,” explained Watson. “The beautiful thing is nobody around here has thin skin and we all want to do the right thing. When we sat down, we knew we needed to be better on both sides of the ball and maximize our opportunities in the red zone. We practice the red zone relentlessly. We’re in the red zone on Sunday and we’re in the red zone on both Wednesday and Thursday, so we’re in the red zone three days. We hit it hard and we emphasize it. During training camp, we might be in the red zone every other day, so in a six-day work week, it’s three and three. We spend a lot of time in training camp, a lot of time in spring ball and then in our preparation weeks, we’re doing the same thing. Because of the emphasis, our kids are really comfortable down there.”
Work Ethic, Character Set Bridgewater Apart
Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater continues to gain more and more national attention for his performances on the field as the Cardinals’ signal caller. Completing more than 70 percent of his passes (181-of-257) while averaging 270 yards per game through the air to go with 18 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, his statistics speak for themselves. However, fans and reporters continue to be impressed with his poise in the pocket and his decision-making on the field despite being just 19 years old. Coaches and teammates credit Bridgewater’s emergence as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks to his continued hard work and impressive character on and off the field.
“I think the number one thing you have to do as a quarterback is you have to be willing to work off the field and outside the classroom in a season,” Watson said. “The offseason is the most important part of your life as a quarterback. I know that as a quarterbacks coach. I think that’s critical. Teddy has embraced that. He’s bought that idea because he wants to be a great player. He’s going to will himself into that. I think he is right now. The really cool thing about Teddy is his humility. You wouldn’t know that. He just keeps working. He knows that he’s got a lot to improve on. I think that he’s had some great games. He’s really played well. I don’t want to say that he’s upset, but he always looks at ‘could I have done this better.’ Then, he goes out and works on it and then next week, it doesn’t happen again. So, he is a remarkable human being in terms of his character.”