Third Downs Haunt Cardinals’ Defense at Syracuse
One of the key issues in Louisville’s disappointing defensive performance in the loss to Syracuse last week was the Cardinals’ inability to make stops on third down. The Orange converted a staggering 14-of-19 third down chances in their 45-26 win. The impressive 73-percent conversion rate allowed Syracuse to maintain drives and gain the highest total yardage count (524 yards) given up by the Cardinals this season. An important factor in that third down success was senior quarterback Ryan Nassib’s ability to escape pressure, break tackles and find an open receiver for positive plays.
“The thing with the quarterback is just beating one-on-one in the pass rush,” said Strong. “If you look at Saturday, you hit the quarterback. One time we come through scot free on a blitz. He (Ryan Nassib) was able to get the ball off and we sat down on coverage. We got beat on a corner route. Overall pressure, again, you hit the guy on third down, they missed a tackle. He scorched and goes and gets a first down. Third down was an issue. You won first and second down and you get them into third down. They had some unbelievable number on third down. I don’t know how high it was, but we just didn’t get off the field on third down.”
Practice Habits Translate to Game Habits for Louisville
Whether it was Nassib in the Syracuse backfield, running backs Jerome Smith or Prince-Tyson Gulley breaking through the line of scrimmage or receiver Alec Lemon downfield, the Cardinals struggled throughout last Saturday’s loss with poor tackling and bad decision-making. Strong suggested to reporters earlier this week that some of Louisville’s issues in those areas could be linked to bad practice habits. Those are issues that must be corrected before the Cardinals return to game action against Connecticut on Nov. 24.
“When we practice, it’s all about wrapping guys up,” Strong said. “If you see it in practice, you’ll see it in a game. If you allow a running back to run through your defense at practice, they’re going to run through your defense in a game. If you don’t wrap guys up, that’s going to happen to you. The guys need to just do their jobs. I don’t need them doing somebody else’s job. Just take care of your responsibility. When you get into a game like we did on Saturday, there are so many things that happen and it feels like ‘wow, I can’t believe that just happened.’ You’ve never been taught to do that, so why would you ever revert back to bad habits. That’s very unusual for this football team. That’s what happened to us on Saturday.”
Pain Should Follow Cardinals’ Performance Against Orange
It came as no surprise earlier this week when Strong told reporters that the Louisville players were slow to bounce back initially after the humbling loss at Syracuse. Losing on the road on Senior Day against a talented opponent was not nearly as frustrating as the manner in which the Cardinals lost. However, Strong is confident his squad will learn from what happened in the Carrier Dome and that the program will continue to move forward following the defeat.
“It’s not very good,” Strong said of the Cardinals’ overall demeanor after the loss. “You just got beat good, so the demeanor wasn’t good. They need to hurt. They need to feel the pain of that loss. As they feel the pain of that loss and they feel the disappointment of how they really played, that’s the only way the program is going to grow. We have to feel that pain.”