Sorry about the absence the last few days. We will be coming hard the next 6 months, starting with basketball media day tomorrow and a absolutely huge game against South Florida on Saturday. Hopefully I will have all the sights and sounds up by this weekend for your viewing and listening pleasure.
Great win against MTSU on Saturday. The defense was sound, the offense got the job done and special teams didn't shoot themselves in the foot. Here are five positives and five negatives from last week going into the pivotal Big East game with South Florida this weekend. I'll start with the positives...
1 - The Running of Victor Anderson
Anderson could be numbers 1 through 5 on this list for the way he is running the ball the last 4-5 games. His rare combination of both speed and strength surprises me for a guy his size. He has the ability to make tacklers miss and look stupid in the process. His 88 yard TD run against the Blue Raiders ignited the Cards after they faced an early 14-0 deficit. Victor has the ability to break that kind of run at any time. The more he gets the ball the better the Cards perform. The coaches are doing there best to try and conserve him so he is fresh the whole season by giving Bolen and Powell the carries in the first few series and then letting VA take over the brunt of the work after that. However, we still have an outside shot at winning the conference and the only way that happens is if Victor gets the ball, pass or carry, 25-30 times a game. Although, I can't fault the coaches for trying to keep him healthy. Anderson is a beast and the best part about him is he's only a freshman.
2- The Return of Scott Long
Long had only 3 catches for 49 yards against Middle, his second game back from a broken foot, but his impact was evident. During the Memphis and UCONN games, go-to receiver Doug Beaumont was being shaded by at least 2 people sometimes 3 because the opposition knew he was about the only option. Josh Chichester was having trouble catching well thrown passes and Trent Guy was just coming into form. Long will help free up other playmakers as well as adding a new dimension to the offense. Long is able to get space and separation because of his size, something that Beaumont, Guy and even Chichester have problems with. This will in turn help Cantwell's ability to take a 3-step drop and have a big target (that will catch it) to throw to quickly. Expect Long's numbers to grow as he continues to get re-acclimated with real game action.
3- Offensive Line Taking Care of Business
Eric Wood and company opened up gaping holes for both Brock Bolen and Victor Anderson on Saturday and have done a hell of a job aside from the UK game. They have not allowed a sack since the Memphis game and the Cards have rushed for an average of an amazing 242 yards per game since the UK debacle. We currently sit 18th in the NCAA in rushing yards/game with an average of 210 ypg. Teams know that Cantwell has a tough time under pressure and the line is stepping up to the challenge and giving our gun-slinger enough time to make what should be smart decisions. Eric Wood has to be the MVP of the team so far this season even considering the play of Beaumont and Anderson. His contribution to the team can't be explained by stats. This isn't an experienced line and Wood is leading by example and getting the most out of the line he anchors. Louisville's hogs will be tested this week by a USF D that is considerably better than UCONN, Memphis and/or MTSU.
4- Brandon Heath Making Most of Little Playing Time
The reserve linebacker came into the program with sky-high hopes and has not performed up to standards to date. A switch from safety to LB could be a reason for the early struggles however, the last two games have been a different story. Heath had the fumble return for a TD to go along with 7 (2 solo) tackles against Memphis, by far his best game as a Card. Heath has a reputation for being a freakish athlete and big hitter and the coaching staff has had trouble finding the right spot for him. LB seems to be the best spot because it is the most shallow of all the defensive units. The sophomore has been battling injuries for 2 years, but is a highlight waiting to happen when healthy. Heath is a playmaker that adds a different facet to an already intimidating Ron English defense. I haven't noticed what warrants him not starting. We'll see if his play the last two weeks doesn't help him get some more well-deserved playing time.
5- James Bryant
The man from the U who joined the team as a transfer before last year has been MIA (no pun) ever since. No talk from coaches, beat writers, or announcers even after a garbage time INT against Tennessee Tech that was frankly meaningless. On Saturday, Bryant got it done on special teams with a blocked field goal and offense by crushing two men with one hit as a goal line fullback on Brock Bolen's third TD. It was rumored that the reason Bryant left Miami was because he refused to play offense. I have no idea why. He opened up a hole that would make Carwell Garner or Mike Alstott proud. Just like Heath, the Coach Krag and crew need to find a good fit for Bryant. If off the field problems are affecting his playing time, I understand. However, it would be a waste to not use a beast like that. Especially with how much subbing is going on throughout the whole defense.
Only ONE negative this week, but it's a pretty big one:
1- Hunter Cantwell's Decision Making
I hate critisizing our frog-giggin', noodlin', rocket-arm carryin' QB, but Cantwell has 8 TDs and 8 picks. These are not the numbers either Cantwell or the fans expected from someone who was waiting eagerly to get HIS shot for 3 years. His INT against UCONN basically cost us the game. Two early INTs against Middle could have been deadly if the rest of the team didn't step up. He is getting plenty of time to throw and in most cases, the checkdown receiver is available. He seems only comfortable throwing out of play-action and his delivery is longer than Hideo Nomo's. Hunter's gun-slinger mentality is backfiring. He has to understand that throwing it out of bounds can be a good thing. Completing a sure-fire 3 yarder is better than gambling on an 8-10 yarder. To Cantwell's credit, some of his receivers are adding to the problem by dropping balls and running half-assed routes but the majority of the blame has to go on the senior Qbs shoulders. My suggestion would be to run more quick throws like slants and screens that will help Cantwell get into a rhythm and make quicker decisions. Until Hunter figures it out, fans will have to hole their collective breath every time he drops back to pass. Cantwell has the tools and brains to get it done. If he didn't, expectations would be lower. He needs to be more like a skillful tactician (Trent Dilfer) and not a fledgling bomber (Jeff George).
More previews on South Florida tomorrow....