By Russ Brown, Kentucky Today
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – If Louisville defense happens to be backed up against their own goal line during Saturday’s game against Boston College, or at any other time this season, they’ll have the muscle memory and a point of reference to call upon to be successful.
With their gritty goal line stand on the 18-inch line with 4:38 remaining in last Saturday’s 21-14 win over Indiana, the Cardinals (3-0, 1-0) set the standard for high performance for the rest of the year, and they’re likely to take the same approach next time, if there is a next time. How did they do it?
Coach Jeff Brohm stacked the defense with six linemen and five linebackers in what he calls U of L’s “jumbo package,” and the Cards stopped running back Josh Henderson cold, with redshirt sophomore T.J. Quinn and freshman Stanquan Clark sharing credit for the tackle.
“We had a lot of big bodies in there,” Brohm said.
“I’d seen that play coming,” Clark said. “I watched film all week, so I knew what it was going to be.”
Quinn got his hands around Henderson’s ankles to slow him down for Clark to come in and apply the finishing touches. “I was expecting the sneak, but I just had to play my keys,” Quinn said. “I saw him hand it off and that’s when we went to make the play together.”
While Clark and Quinn got the glory, there was more to it than that, of course, with the pair of linebackers getting help from two of the “jumbos.” Redshirt sophomore tackle Jared Dawson (6-2, 305) altered the play by driving the IU center a step into the backfield, clogging one hole while another lineman, redshirt senior Stephen Herron (6-4, 240), held his own against two blockers on the left side.
Louisville’s defense will face another challenge this weekend. The Eagles (1-2, 0-1 ACC) threw a scare into No. 3 Florida State in a 31-29 loss last Saturday, compiling 457 total yards and scoring 19 unanswered points in 10 minutes, 43 seconds after trailing 31-10 late in the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Thomas Castellanos (5-9, 186) is a dual threat. He threw for 305 yards and a touchdown and added 95 yards rushing and a TD against the Seminoles.
“Based on the last game, they can play football,” Brohm said of the Eagles. “They’ve made corrections over the first couple of weeks and it looks like they’ve found their quarterback. We’ll have our hands full. This will be a really good test for us.”
MEET JACK PLUMMER, RUNNER
Quarterback Jack Plummer had another mostly efficient but unspectacular day against the Hoosiers, completing 13-of-23 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. But what more than likely caught the eye of most observers was his scrambling ability because he isn’t regarded as a running threat.
That could change, though, as the season progresses. His 13-yard sprint out of the end zone on a naked bootleg for a first down got the Cards out of a deep hole at the one after the defensive stop with the game still on the line, and he finished with 42 yards rushing on eight carries.
“I’m not Lamar Jackson and I’m not Malik Cunningham,” Plummer said. “I think I’ve proved I’m alright running the ball. So if that’s something I have to do, I will do it for the team.”
Brohm admitted that he took a calculated risk in calling the play, gambling that Plummer could avoid a safety. Had IU blitzed, it might have been a different story.
“On the half-yard line, we took a little chance and put it on the quarterback to get outside. He did a great job getting on the edge and running it for a first down,” Brohm said. “When we recruited Jack way back at Purdue, the thing that stood out was he was athletic. He could run around and scramble, make some plays. . .He was under-recruited, and we got him to come to us.
“We talk about it every game: two to five times when we call pass, you’re gonna have to run the ball. If it’s not open, they have good coverage, somebody falls down, you get pressure. So that’s got to be in your mind. I thought overall, he did a really, really good job (running).”
Brohm said Plummer could have avoided the interception if he had been more eager to run. Facing a 3rd-and-4 at the IU 45 and under pressure in the third quarter, he threw a deep ball into double coverage near the goal line. Still, sophomore wideout Kevin Coleman Jr. should have made the catch, but the ball bounced off his chest into the hands of IU defensive back Phillip Dunnam.
“He’s trying to make a big play and he could have run for the first down,” Brohm said. “From there, it was ‘let’s be smart. You don’t have to force the touchdown passes, just be efficient.’ Then he made another good run as well.”
Brohm was referring to a scramble during the same series as UofL was running out the clock in the final 4 1/2 minutes. On a 3rd-and-9 from his 3 and another first down, Plummer ran for 20 yards and another first down, although all but five yards were wiped out by an unsportsmanlike penalty on offensive lineman Renato Brown after the play.
DB KELLY EARNS ACC HONOR--U of L free safety Cam’Ron Kelly was named the ACC Defensive Back of the Week Monday after equaling a career-high 12 tackles against IU. Kelly, a junior transfer from North Carolina, where he was an All-ACC performer last season, also intercepted his first pass as a Cardinal and had two tackles for loss.
N.C. STATE KICKOFF SET–The ACC has set the Louisville-NC State kickoff on Sept. 29 for 7 p.m. kickoff in Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. The Wolfpack (2-1, 0-0) has defeated UConn (24-14) and VMI (45-7) while losing to No. 9 Notre Dame (45-24). NC State will play Virginia (0-3, 0-0) on the road Saturday night.