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Notre Dame Football

Scouting Report | Louisville

October 14, 2020
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In many ways it was a Cinderella first season for Scott Satterfield at Louisville. The team was expected to be bad, but surprised with an exciting offense and ended up with a winning record.

Achieving that this season is going to be tougher after a 1-3 start.

Ranked 41st in SP+, the Cardinals have turned the ball over too often (72nd out of 74 teams) and have been hit and miss on both sides of the ball. They could easily be 3-1 rather than 1-3 so Notre Dame has to be careful to not underestimate them.

It's still a roster that has two of the biggest playmakers in the ACC and Satterfield will have his teams playing hard no matter what their record is.

Injuries and Opt Outs

Quarterback Malik Cunningham has been banged up, but has been playing. It may have an impact on how they use him as a runner.

CB Marlon Character is out for the first half after committing a targeting foul against Georgia Tech. Louisville will be getting CB Kei’Trel Clark back in this game. 

It sounds like Louisville will come into this game relatively healthy.

Offense

The offense is dangerous on any given play. They are 12th in SP+ and are going to be one of the faster skill position groups Notre Dame will go against.

Although their yards per play are down almost a full yard from where they were last season, a lot of that has to do with missed throws down the field that could have changed games.

Expected Strengths

This is still a good offense because of the skill talent. They averaged 6.07 YPP vs Miami and have explosive playmakers all over the field.

TuTu Atwell is a threat from the slot and if they could hit him deep more, he would be having a similar monster season to the one he had last fall.

They are 13th in passes 20 yards or longer, tied for 12th with eight runs of 20 yards or more. They have three or four guys outside who can get deep and make a play. They have two backs who can break a long one on any snap as well.

The lead guy is Javian Hawkins and he is extremely tough to tackle. He has 22 forced missed tackles and is one of the top backs in the country.

Potential Weaknesses

Their offensive line has been bad. They miss Mekhi Becton (first round pick for the NY Jets). His replacement, LT Anthony Boone, has struggled in the first few weeks with 12 pressures against him. RT Renato Brown had a heck of a time against Georgia Tech rushers with two penalties and a pressure as well.

Notre Dame should have a big advantage against these two.

They are 68th out of 74 in sack rate. Pitt’s defensive line absolutely ate them up across the board. They get stuffed (runs for 0 yards or less) a lot. They are 68th in that category and don’t give the backs enough room to make plays.

Even when they do, fumbling has been a problem and running back Hassan Hall already has three fumbles on the year.

The unfortunate news for them is that Malik Cunningham has gone from rising star to someone who has taken a step back. He has been pressured so often and has been beat up in the pocket. His awareness isn’t where it needs to be and he isn’t as good at escaping the rush as FSU’s Jordan Travis.

He has been pressured 35.5% of the time and Notre Dame should get to him quite a bit. Cunningham has thrown five interceptions and has fumbled three times.

He’s been horrific when pressured with only a 24.2% completion rate and he’s averaging 4.7 yards per attempt on those plays. He has not handled the blitz well either.

Against Pitt, when he was constantly pressured, he finished only 1 of 7 on throws of 20 yards or more.

Scheme

Satterfield has been a slow tempo guy in the past, but they are averaging more plays than they typically do. Part of that is that they haven’t been as successful at being explosive. I’d expect some unbalanced line from them to try and create mismatches in the running game.

They want to run the ball and are 28th run play percentage. They are 61.4% run on first down.They’ll try to hit Notre Dame over the top with play-action passes and have thrown 6.5 deep throws per game.

Because of the struggles up front, I think we’ll see them move the pocket and try and keep a tight end or back in to chip as much as possible on the edge. When they try to be a traditional drop back team, it doesn’t go well for them.

Notre Dame has to be aware of the fade when they get a matchup with Atwell versus a safety in the slot.

Key Players

WR TuTu Atwell - Only has a long reception of 33-yards this season, but could have had several longer than that if not for some drops and Cunningham being more accurate.

QB Malik Cunningham - He’s been sacked 14 times and while he’s not great in the pocket, he’s a great runner when he gets into space.

RB Javian Hawkins - The ninth leading rusher in the country. Notre Dame must constantly pursue him and never assume he is going to be tackled one on one.

WR Dez Fitzpatrick - Their big receiver who can also win deep. He’s averaging 18 yards per reception this season.

Key Matchup for Notre Dame

Shaun Crawford vs Atwell - We can assume that Crawford will be back playing safety this week and even when he’s not, he’ll probably be matched up with Atwell.

Defense

This defense is who we thought they were. They are 96th in SP+ and if they were playing better, the mistakes on offense wouldn’t be as big of a deal.

Bryan Brown is doing the best he can with a group that isn’t the most talented in the conference. They’re giving up over 6.0 YPP and 34.3 points per game.

Expected Strengths

The one they do really well is stuff the run. They are 19th in Stuff rate (runs that go for 0 yards or less). They also have an 18.2% Havoc Rate. They are able to take down ball carriers in the backfield quite a bit and force teams into long yardage situations.

It’s an attacking defense that is above average in those areas. They try to dictate what the offense can do against them and a lot of the time it works.

Linebacker Dorian Etheridge has been a Havoc machine. He is second in the country with 8.5 tackles for loss and is a constant presence in the backfield.

Potential Weaknesses

When it doesn’t work, they give up explosive plays. They’ve given up 10 passes of 30 yards or more (69th) and 25 runs of 10 yards or more (tied for 62nd). That run defense is a recipe for disaster against a Notre Dame team that churns out plenty of those 10 yard runs.

They aren’t big up front and can get bullied, which is why they slant often. The problem is that when they get caught in the wrong call, it can be disastrous. Louisville is below average in most categories and there aren’t many future NFL players on their defense.

They don’t have an elite pass rusher. They don’t have a war daddy inside that can disrupt on any snap. They don’t have any All-ACC caliber players at defensive back that can lock a receiver up all game.

Safety Isaiah Hayes is a player to target in the secondary. He’s struggled in coverage.

Scheme

Brown runs a 3-4, but it’s not a traditional two-gap scheme. It’s an attacking philosophy which Brown describes as a slant and angle scheme. They are going to move defensive linemen around and have linebackers and defensive back blitz from all over to help disrupt plays in the backfield.

It’s really about the linebackers. They are the ones who Louisville needs to be productive. Brown prefers speed over size, which is why former defensive backs fit what he wants.

Brown wants to disguise coverages and confuse quarterbacks. Havoc is the main goal because they don’t have the personnel to play teams straight up.

Key Players

LB Dorian Etheridge - Their best player. A much stronger player versus the run than the pass.

LB Rodjay Burns - Nickel linebacker has not been as good in coverage, but he’s a threat off the edge when he blitzes. Had 11 TFLs last season.

S Russ Yeast - Another player who is having a bit of a down year. Suffered a knee injury last year and that may be why he seems a half a step slower.

Key Matchup for Notre Dame

Hayes vs Notre Dame’s tight ends -

Hayes, a senior, has one career pass breakup and no interceptions. He’s been a liability in coverage and this could be a game where Notre Dame’s tight ends go off when matched up against him.

Special Teams

Louisville ranks 41st in SP+ on special teams. While kicker James Turner is 4 of 4 on field goals and perfect on extra points, that’s been one of the few positives for them.

They are 70th in punting average, have not had much in the return game, and they’ve give up a couple of big chunk punt returns. They haven’t shown anything where they may be able to swing the game in their direction on special teams.

 
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