Papa John’s stadium expansion on schedule as AD Vince Tyra, coach Bobby Petrino excited
Matt Stone, Louisville Courier Journal
This is the sixth in a series breaking down every game on Louisville’s 2018 football schedule and analyzing how the Cardinals can beat each opponent, and how they can lose to each opponent. Previous installments: Alabama | Western Kentucky | Indiana State | Virginia | Florida State.
Scouting report: Georgia Tech
Last year, for the 10th straight season, Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack finished in the nation’s top 10 in rushing yards per game. TaQuon Marshall took over the quarterback duties well, and Georgia Tech again rolled out a stable of running backs. This year’s offense has the key pieces again: Marshall is back, and so are his top five running backs, including KirVonte Benson, who rushed for 1,053 yards last season.
But that offensive success did not translate into wins for the Yellow Jackets, who finished 5-6 last season and lost two games by one point. Their defense faded down the stretch last season, giving up 38 points or more in three of the last four games. In response, Johnson brought in defensive coordinator Nate Woody from Appalachian State.
How Louisville can beat Georgia Tech
The Cardinals have never played Georgia Tech in football, so they’ll have to get up to speed quickly. Teams that face a triple-option attack on their schedule often begin preparing in the previous spring, and that’s what Louisville did starting in March and April. In just its fifth game together, Louisville’s new defense is going to have to play well as a unit, be mindful of the gaps and move quickly to the football — all main principles of new coordinator Brian VanGorder’s approach.
The defense was inept last October against run-heavy Boston College. In the second half of the season, Louisville adjusted to push its front seven up to aid in the running game. That’s going to be a key against Georgia Tech. Sophomore middle linebacker Dorian Etheridge may face his toughest test yet as the defense’s signal caller. P.J. Blue and C.J. Avery will have to step up, too.
On offense, Jawon Pass can lend the defense a big hand. Against Alabama and Florida State, look for the Cards to run the ball and shorten the game. Long drives could be helpful here, too, to keep Georgia Tech’s offense off the field. But Louisville also needs a few big plays to neutralize the gains it gives up — that’s what Bobby Petrino’s passing game brings.
How Louisville can lose to Georgia Tech
Friday night home games are nice, but a short week of preparation for Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense is every coach’s worst nightmare. Louisville has not fared well on short weeks in the recent past, losing to NC State last season and Houston two years ago, and the Cards will be coming off a matchup against Florida State that was draining even last year.
An easy way for any team to lose to Georgia Tech is to struggle to stop the triple option. That complex scheme poses serious concerns for a rebuilding Louisville defense. VanGorder will deploy only about six defenders who played significant time last season. Will the rest be ready for what the Yellow Jackets will bring?
Another question mark is, believe it or not, in the passing game. If Louisville stacks the box, cornerbacks Rodjay Burns and P.J. Mbanasor are going to have to play one-on-one defense in the secondary. Tech’s bread and butter is the downhill rushing attack. Long pass plays on third down would be back-breaking.