The card racing game shows offensive potential
Jack Bicknell, Louisville Offensive Line Coach received a lot of criticism at the start of the season after the offensive line he said could be the best he has ever had, started the year slowly.
The games against Ole Miss and Eastern Kentucky left a lot to be desired from a group that fired four starters and had a lot of experience in all fields.
It was supposed to be the strength of the team, carrying a talented but inexperienced group of running backs and helping quarterback Malik Cunningham find his new generation of receivers.
Don’t look now, but the offensive line looks just as talented as the coaching staff raves in the offseason.
Louisville ran for 331 yards against Boston College on Saturday. He’s averaging seven yards per carry and two players have run over 100 yards at Cunningham with 133 and Trevion Cooley with 112.
These are not just numbers for the season. Louisville has run over 300 yards just three times previously under Scott Satterfield, the last time coming in a 31-17 loss to Virginia in 2020. The other two times were against a terrible team from Syracuse 2019 and the ‘Eastern Kentucky in 2019.
On Saturday, Louisville did so against a Boston College team that allowed an average of 125.50 yards in six games and 3.8 yards per carry.
Louisville’s rushing offense was the only thing that worked for offense and as the running back trio of Jalen Mitchell, Cooley and Hassan Hall improved, they have a much improved offensive line to thank.
Cooley did the same on Saturday.
âHats off to these guys,â Cooley said. “It’s hard to switch from one coach to another on short notice, just before the start of the season. Hats off to them for adjusting to a different coach. Obviously everyone is different, but these guys -they are working hard. ”
Cooley had a milestone day on Saturday. The 112 yards marked the first day of 100 yards for the first year, but it was also his first day of 100 yards since the 2019 football season.
Due to COVID-19, the North Carolina native did not have a high school season in 2020, and it took some time to adjust to college during spring practice. He was assaulted and over the summer he admitted he was out of shape, but Cunningham knew he was special.
He’s showing it now, despite the fumble in the fourth quarter.
âFrom his first day here he came early, I knew he had something in him,â Cunningham said. “We have the three-headed monster over there and he just finished the game like he did, hats off to him.”
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Louisville’s backroom was thought to be a deep group, and that’s exactly what it is this season. Mitchell was the comeback, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, while Cooley and Hall were the explosive duo.
Since the victory over Florida State, the running backs have stepped up their efforts to make a difference in the running game. Louisville ran for 208 yards against Wake Forest, for 233 against Virginia and then 331 against Boston College.
Part of that is the improvement up front.
Louisville didn’t bench or spin different players; they just clicked better and that’s obvious. Louisville averaged 4.8 yards per carry against Wake Forest, 6.8 against Virginia and increased that on Saturday.
It was the outer zone on Saturday for which the Eagles had no answer.
âHonestly, the outside area, it was killing them,â Cooley said. âThen our offensive line came out with the ‘You can’t stop me mindset. You’re going to have to beat me up to stop me.’ This is what has helped us be so successful. “
Louisville is the only ACC team to make the top 20 for both sacks allowed and tackles for a loss allowed. In six games, the Cardinals have allowed just eight sacks – none on Saturday – and 25 tackles for a loss. Saturday was also the first time since 2008 that the offensive line had gone straight weeks without a sack being allowed.
Turnovers need to be curtailed, Hall and Cooley can’t grope in the same game, but if the Cardinals can build on their running game, the offense can go one step further.
I don’t know if the offensive line has yet lived up to being the best Bicknell has ever had, but it is fast becoming one of the best in the ACC and one that Louisville can count on when it comes down to it. runs the ball.
âWe challenge the offensive line every week to put our offense on the back, so when the passing game isn’t working we can lean on the running game,â Cunningham said. “That’s what we did today.”