FSU Football: Breaking Down The Louisville Defense

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Sep 1, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals linebacker Keith Kelsey (55) reacts during the second half against the Charlotte 49ers at Papa John

FSU football will travel to Kentucky to take on the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday in a top 10 matchup. How will the Louisville Cardinals look to stop the ‘Noles offense?

The Louisville Cardinals are one of the best teams in the country according to the polls. They come in at No. 10 after defeating Charlotte and Syracuse.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson has won the Walter Camp National Player of the Week award in back-to-back weeks, and the Cardinals are averaging an astounding 66 points over the first two games.

They return a number of starters on offense and defense to compliment Jackson, and will hope their home crowd at Papa John Stadium can fuel them to an upset win over No 2. Florida State.

College Gameday will be in attendance, and this game will have ACC Conference title implications with the winner having leaped a huge divisional hurdle with Clemson in the distance.

The Cardinals hung with the ‘Noles a year ago, leading 7-6 at halftime and taking a 14-13 lead in the third quarter before FSU football scored 21 straight points to put them away late.

Here we’ll take a look at what the Cardinals will try to do on defense and what FSU football can do to attack their weaknesses.

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Sep 1, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; The Louisville Cardinals take the field before the first quarter against the Charlotte 49ers at Papa John

Players of Note

The Louisville Cardinals defense was the No. 24 defense in the nation according to Def. S&P+. Their defense typically relies on aggression and forcing turnovers (26 forced in 2015) as their most effective calling cards.

Louisville usually is pretty stout across their defensive line in their 3-4 alignment.  D’Angelo Brown is the anchor in the middle at nose tackle and the linebackers are very experienced, returning three linebackers that had 44.5 tackles for a loss.

The Cardinals return two safeties in Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chucky Williams.

However, the secondary is probably the weakest part of this defense that ranked No. 51 in Passing S&P+. They gave up some plays against Syracuse that were alarming though.

They were No. 12 against the run according to S&P+ last season.

We’re not basing anything off of what we’ve seen thus far because frankly, it’s hard to gauge what they have since the two teams they have played are terrible.

Run Game

The Cardinals will look to stop the run game first and foremost. The S&P+ stats tell us all we need to know in how effective the Cardinals were in stopping the run last season.

This is an obvious running down in the red zone, and Louisville comes with the pressure off a corner blitz. Another lineman comes untouched and forces Golson to get rid of the ball.

Fisher tries to catch them off guard again, but they bring more guys than the offensive line can block.

It’s second and 20 here, and you can see how the Louisville linebackers swarm to the ball. It looks like Dalvin Cook had a crease, but it closed quickly for a minimal gain.

Passing Game

We mentioned the Louisville defensive line being stout, and here’s a great example to illustrate. Watch the line of scrimmage and who dominates this particular snap.

It’s first down, they bring a corner blitz and the defensive line whips the offensive line to get pressure on Everett Golson. He has like 1.8 seconds to make a decision on this play, and almost made a bonehead decision by running backwards so far and getting sacked.

Here it’s an obvious passing down at second and 14. The defensive end comes all the way across the line of scrimmage to get the sack. Golson takes too long to get rid of the ball here, but this gives you an example of different ways the defense will come after the quarterback.

How The ‘Noles Can Attack

The Louisville will look to be very aggressive in stopping the run. Jimbo Fisher gets predictable at times on first down with running Dalvin Cook. Here’s a perfect example of a time when he switched it up on them last year.

Louisville is expecting the run on first day, and Fisher hits them with a little screen against a very aggressive defense. FSU will take Dalvin Cook in  one on one matchups in space all day. An offense getting seven or eight yards on first down is winning football.

Here you see the Cardinals bringing pressure again on first down, and Fisher hits them with the play-action rollout. This is a very similar play that FSU football used against Ole Miss in the first game when Deondre Francois hit Ryan Izzo for a big gain.

See the huge cushion Louisville defenders are giving up here on first down? Jimbo Fisher takes the easy pitch and catch for seven or eight yards on first down.

Overall, this is poor tackling by the Cardinals defense. However, the execution of the play by FSU football is excellent.

Check out the alignment on the opposite side of where the run actually goes. The numbers suggest FSU is running to that side, but this play allows Dalvin Cook to get to the edge against a defensive end. They’ll take that all day, and of course he beats the end who crashed just enough to give Cook the angle to beat him.

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Sep 10, 2016, in Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) warms up prior to the game against Charleston Southern at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports


The Louisville will have their share of wins against FSU, but ultimately it could be their aggressiveness that ends up being their demise.

They can stop plays for a loss, or give up a huge play as there’s very little bend but not break to their philosophy.

FSU was able to drop 34 points on this defense last year with a quarterback in Everett  Golson who wasn’t very good as passing or running.

I expect Deondre Francois to have a good day as long as the offensive line does its part. As we mentioned, this should be the first game that original starting five should start with Kareem Are returning to the lineup.

FSU will look to get attack on the edges, and behind the linebackers if they’re looking to be aggressive in stopping the run. This defense could be susceptible to screens and play-action deep.

As long as the FSU offense doesn’t turn the ball over, they should be able to score enough to get the W. However, they can’t afford to get off to a slow start on the road against a potentially high-powered offense.

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