Jeff Greer (courier-journal.com)
5 things to watch: Louisville-NC State
3. Gardner’s timing and quick release. Will Gardner’s the starting quarterback again for Louisville, and his timing and decision-making looked much sharper at Clemson on Saturday. If he plays like that this Saturday, the Cardinals can win going away. He can be a solid downfield passer when given the time, at least that’s what his current and former teammates and coaches say. Bobby Petrino thought Gardner had started to get in a “groove” before hurting his knee at FIU. Can he dial that rhythm back up?
4. Can the defense keep its streak going? Louisville, as you’ve heard 1,000,000,000,000 times by now, has not given up a touchdown since the 10:35 mark of the third quarter against Virginia … on Sept. 13. By my calculations, that’s ridiculous. NC State’s offense, as I said above, has sputtered in recent weeks, but I do think Jacoby Brissett will be one of the better QBs the Cards see this year. I didn’t pick NC State to score a touchdown, so I guess that means I think the streak continues.
5. O-line progress. There was a lot of chatter — not from me — that Louisville’s offensive line showed a lot of progress at Clemson. Did it? The false starts and other miscues were right in line with the problems in previous games. I will say, in fairness, it seemed like the quarterbacks had more time to throw at times, which is a step in the right direction. Louisville has to figure out a way to limit the penalties on the offensive line, and a home environment against a struggling team is a good place to start.
Charlie Springer (uoflcardgame.com)
Louisville’s DeVante Parker will go against N.C. State
“I’m knocking on wood here, but he looks like he might be available to go,” he said. “He practiced all three days and he looked good out there tonight, so I’m excited about it. I’ll list him as questionable, but I think he’s ready to go.”
Petrino was also upbeat on improved protection for the signal callers, indicating that the receivers and quarterbacks are getting the timing down. “We’re working hard on the protection part of it. We’re continually working to get better at it. I guess we’ll find out here on Saturday,” he said.
Jeff Greer (courier-journal.com)
Gardner back as U of L’s starting quarterback
Will Gardner’s the guy again.
After 2½ with freshman Reggie Bonnafon as the University of Louisville’s starting quarterback, U of L offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said Tuesday that the Cardinals will hand the offense’s reins back to Gardner for Saturday’s game against North Carolina State.
Gardner missed Louisville’s wins over Wake Forest and Syracuse with an unspecified knee injury that he suffered in U of L’s Sept. 20 win over Florida International. He practiced all of last week, but McGee and head coach Bobby Petrino stuck with Bonnafon for last Saturday’s game at Clemson.
When Bonnafon struggled through two-plus quarters, Gardner threw for 150 yards and a touchdown in relief.
“Reggie came in and did a really good job and won us a couple games,” McGee said. “Will is back healthy now, so we’re going to put in Will first.”
McGee said that Louisville (5-2) will still use Bonnafon during Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Of the two, Gardner’s the better pocket passer. The redshirt sophomore started the first four games of the season and has completed 57 percent of his passes for 948 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions.
Last week, once Gardner was healthy, Petrino and McGee continued with Bonnafon because he presented the best chance for a Louisville quarterback to escape Clemson’s top-flight pass rush.
But Bonnafon completed just 5 of 13 passes against Clemson. The Tigers started playing closer and closer to the line of scrimmage, showing no fear of Bonnafon’s passing ability, which condensed Louisville’s offense and stifled the Cards’ rushing attack.
A Little ‘Wolpfack’ moment for Fox Sports…
Asked this week if he’s frustrated with the offense’s struggles, the coach said, ”I think you’re always a little bit frustrated. You keep understanding why, you know, what is causing the mistakes?
”We’re not blocking well up front, we’re not getting open fast enough, against tight coverage well enough. It all works together.”
The Cardinals believe playing together is key to improving, and naming Gardner as the starter again on Tuesday could mark the first step toward familiarity and continuity. Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee noted that dual-threat Bonnafon will play in certain situations.
No matter who has called the signals, their inexperience has shown. Gardner struggled with fumbles, deflected passes at the line and interceptions while Bonnafon has endured cold stretches.
That has been tough to endure for Petrino, who expects his QBs to execute right away. While that hasn’t always been the case, he sees positives and said ”we just need to get some consistency and some better execution, and not just at the quarterback position. We need the guys around him to play better.”
Jeff Greer (courier-journal.com)
Gaines offers new goal for U of L’s defense
Louisville cornerback Charles Gaines on Wednesday revealed a Remember the Titans-type goal for his team’s defense, which ranks among the best in the nation: Not allowing opponents past the 50-yard line.
“That’s a new goal,” Gaines said. “As long as we don’t let them across the 50, I feel like, as a unit, that could be put on our board for our new goal, especially at home.
“Can’t cross the bird.”
That’s how memes and posters and T-shirts are made, and Gaines, who last year claimed that he “runs with the animals,” delivered once again.
The verbose junior hasn’t had the same type of season he had last year, when he grabbed five interceptions and scored three touchdowns on defense and special teams. He has one interception this season and 10 tackles. He’s credited with seven passes defended and six pass breakups, plus one forced fumble.
Keith Wynne (cardchronicle.com)
WTWF: NC State Wolfpack
WILL GARDNER’S FOOTWORK AND OVERALL MECHANICS
I’m completely on board with Will Gardner as the starting quarterback. I think that he is a better passer and I think that the available playbook better suits the offense as a whole. Gardner has played much better than some fans have felt and this is the best opportunity that he will have to prove that. NC State doesn’t do anything particularly well on defense and that includes rushing the passer. Will has yet to face a defense that doesn’t do a good job getting after the quarterback. Every team that he has faced has at least 16 sacks on the season with a few of those teams having at least one player that the blocking scheme needs to focus on. Outside of Thomas Teal, there is not a defensive lineman on the Wolfpack roster that really puts any fear into an offense. Gardner needs to really improve on his mechanics this weekend with the toughest part of the season approaching. We all have seen how well he can play when he’s “on”. Now is the time to make “on” be the norm.
WAS LAST WEEK’S PERFORMANCE FROM THE OFFENSIVE LINE A FLUKE?
If you took the time to go back and watch the last two games and really focus on the offensive line you can’t help but notice the improvement with the offensive line. We have all been very critical of the offensive line this year and they have deserved it. We’re one of the worst teams in the country when it comes to protecting the quarterback and we struggle mightily with running the ball at times. The penalties are still a major issue and they have killed drives the last few weeks that could have really kept the offense moving. But, when there is improvement they deserve praise. They aren’t going to turn things around in one game but any progression towards good should get recognition. They held one of the best defensive fronts in the country at bay for the most part. The four sacks that were given up weren’t due to poor blocking by the line. The blame belongs with the initial play call and the lack of recognition from Reggie Bonnafon. If the line can continue the trend of improvement from week to week I really think the offense as a whole will improve. Will Gardner has to be able to see blitzes better than Reggie did last week and the running backs need to be able to pass block better. The quarterbacks both had cleaner pockets to throw from last weekend. If the line can replicate that as well as opening holes for the running backs I think we would all be pretty happy.