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Can NC State find a way to bounce back against Louisville?

Time to dig deep after a difficult week.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville is a well-known quantity at this point in Scott Satterfield’s tenure—dangerous, but flawed—with a pretty good offense around Malik Cunningham and an up-and-down defense. That’s basically what we’ve seen from the Cardinals this year, just with a consistent question around Cunningham’s health.

He’s suffered multiple injuries throughout the fall, one to his head, another to his non-throwing hand, and most recently, one to his shoulder that took him out of the Clemson game. It’s not clear that he’ll play on Saturday and his status officially is “day-to-day”

Perhaps as a result of the bumps and bruises, his effectiveness as a passer has been underwhelming. He is averaging only 7.3 yards per attempt and has just eight touchdown passes.

He remains a threat on the ground, of course, and leads the Cards with 561 yards rushing and 11 rushing touchdowns. He’s over 3,000 rushing yards for his career, which is a hell of an accomplishment.

Louisville is averaging five yards per carry and nearly 200 yards rushing per game. It has three backs with at least 250 yards on the year, led by Tennessee transfer Tiyon Evans, who has 523 on 6.5 per rush.

It’ll be a stiff test for NC State’s rush defense, but if the Wolfpack can be solid there, and Cunningham doesn’t play, then the Cards suddenly look a lot easier to bottle up. That’s because backup quarterback Brock Domann has been bad: 51.9% completions, two touchdowns, four interceptions. He has as many picks in 77 attempts as Cunningham has in 212.

Louisville has gotten to where it is thanks in large part to very generous treatment from the turnover gods; the Cardinals are fourth nationally with a +11 turnover margin and second with 27 total takeaways, including 13 fumble recoveries. That’s 13 fumble recoveries out of 18 fumbles, so the whims of fumble luck have been on their defense’s side. (State’s defense, by contrast, has recovered just three of nine opponent fumbles.)

That defense has had strong overall performances against UCF, Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh, but was bad in all four losses, allowing at least six yards per play in each, and over seven yards per play in two of them. (Including Boston College!)

Pass defense has been a problem in league games, as ACC opponents are averaging 8.5 yards per attempt while completing nearly 68% of their passes. The Cards have been able to compensate with 11 interceptions.

So there is certainly some room for NC State to bounce back this weekend, but without knowing where the team’s head is at, or whether there is any credence to the MJ Morris injury rumors, it’s tough to ballpark how capable State will be of taking advantage. Your guess is as good as mine.