Louisville, Kentucky – The 18th ranked Louisville Cardinals took a break from competition after suffering a loss and are now focused on preventing a small decline. The 20th ranked Duke Blue Devils have the same objective, but must find a way to defeat the Cardinals.
Both teams have the common goal of holding onto at least second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference on Saturday. They are both aiming to regain their momentum and style that led to successful beginnings. For Louisville (6-1, 3-1 ACC), this involves preventing mistakes that resulted in losing their lead to Pittsburgh in a 38-21 defeat, right after a significant win against Notre Dame.
“The problem is regaining our concentration and refocusing,” stated Jeff Brohm, the newly appointed coach for Louisville. He admitted that it was challenging to move on from the three interceptions, including one that resulted in a touchdown, during the game against the Panthers.
“Although our initial performance was strong, it holds no significance. Ultimately, our success will be evaluated at the end of the year. We have faced challenging opponents and managed to come out victorious in tight games, but I cannot guarantee that this will continue. It is imperative for both the coaching staff and players to persevere and find a way to win all close games in the future.”
Big plays and scoring have ignited Louisville’s success, but they may face challenges from Duke’s defense that has only allowed an average of 13.9 points per game. Despite a 38-20 defeat against No. 4 Florida State, the Blue Devils have only given up seven touchdowns in their first six games. However, they struggled in the final quarter against the leading Seminoles.
Despite having only one loss in the league, they are still in contention for a spot in the conference championship game.
“The one thing I don’t question about this group is response,” Duke second-year coach Mike Elko said. “I think whether we go out next week and perform well enough to get the desired result, we’ll find that out on Saturday. But we’re certainly going to respond the right way.”
Jamari Thrash, a receiver for Louisville, had his second 100-yard game at Pitt where he caught nine passes for a total of 120 yards. In the past two games, he has made a total of 17 receptions for 195 yards. He currently holds the second spot in the ACC with 639 receiving yards, averaging 91.3 yards per game and scoring six touchdowns. Despite an injury, Louisville’s running back Jawhar Jordan is listed as the starter. He only had two carries for eight yards at Pitt but has a total of 661 rushing yards and an average of 94.4 yards per game, ranking second in the ACC behind North Carolina’s Omarion Hampton.
Despite allowing a season-high of 38 points, including a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on special teams, the Blue Devils remain one of the top defenses in the country. They rank fifth in the Bowl Subdivision for points allowed (13.9) and 24th in total offense (315.9 yards per game).
BACK ON TARGET
Last week, Duke only gained 273 total yards, their lowest of the season. This has been a trend for the past five weeks as their offensive production continues to decline. The majority of their success has been due to their strong running game, led by Jordan Waters and Jaquez Moore. However, the team is currently working on improving their passing game.
Riley Leonard, a dual-threat quarterback, persevered through an ankle injury that had forced him to miss one game. He made his return against FSU, but only threw for 69 yards on 7 out of 16 attempts with one interception. In the Blue Devils’ first defeat against Notre Dame, he had a total of 134 passing yards.
Elko stated that the key is to establish a more efficient pace, which applies across the board. He emphasized the importance of safeguarding, creating unobstructed spaces, and effectively breaking away from defenders on the outer edges. He also noted that there is no one solution that will fix everything.
According to Brohm, Louisville’s sophomore Austin Collins will likely start again at right guard this week in lieu of Ronato Brown, who will be out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury sustained before the game against Pitt.
The Cardinals have emerged victorious in all three encounters with a margin of at least 10 points. This includes a dominant 40-3 victory in 2002, which took place before the Cardinals became a part of the ACC. The teams have faced each other only once at Louisville in 2016, where the Cardinals emerged triumphant with a resounding 62-22 win in Durham.