Louisville’s all new this season—new coaching staff, and a whole bunch off new faces on the field. The Cardinals brought home Jeff Brohm from Purdue—a long-anticipated move—after Scott Satterfield opted to flee for Cincinnati during the offseason, and so far at least, it looks like an upgrade.
Coaching changes in the portal era can be more tumultuous than they were in the past, and Louisville is a good example: nearly two dozen guys left, some following Satterfield to Cincy, and Brohm’s staff brought in two dozen guys to start his remodel. Including three quarterbacks, because you can’t be too sure!
So Louisville came into the fall as a bit of an unknown quantity, and we’ve learned at least one thing in the season’s first month: that offense is very good. While NC State is having all sorts of problems creating explosive plays, the Cards have had no such issues.
Louisville already has racked up 29 plays of 40 yards or more, including six plays of at least 70 yards. (State has four plays of 40+ yards this year.) With no shortage of home run hitters, Louisville ranks fourth nationally in yards per play at 8.1 and fifth in total offense. Take out the Murray State laugher and they’re still averaging an impressive 7.8 YPP against FBS teams.
Leading the way is Cal transfer quarterback Jack Plummer, who is very much enjoying the playmakers around him. Plummer has completed two-thirds of his throws on 11.5 yards per attempt; he made comedy out of Boston College’s bad defense last weekend, finishing 18-21 for 388 yards and five scores. He does have four interceptions in 97 attempts, though.
The Cards don’t necessarily need Plummer to be great in order to be successful, as they have a star at running back in Jawhar Jordan (who you may remember as the guy who returned a kickoff for a score against NC State last year). After running for 815 yards in 2022, Jordan is on pace to surpass 1,400 yards in 2023. He’s averaging 9.6 yards per carry and had two touchdown runs over 70 yards against Georgia Tech. He had a 75-yard touchdown catch against BC as well.
At receiver, Georgia State transfer Jamari Thrash already has 400 yards and five touchdowns on just 19 catches (21.1 YPC). He was an explosive player at GSU as well (1100 yards on 18.4 YPC) so it’s not surprising that carried over. Ahmari Huggins-Bruce is second on the team with 11 grabs for 173 yards and a couple scores.
Big challenge ahead for State’s defense in dealing with ... (gesturing toward all of this) ... all of this.
Defensively, however, the Cards are a work in progress. They lost a lot of production either to graduation or transfer, including three of their top four tacklers. Their top four leaders in TFLs from 2022 are gone, including a trio of linebackers—so that group has had to be remade. They’re starting a trio of redshirt sophomores there. One of them, TJ Quinn, leads the team with 22 tackles.
Up front, they’ve gotten a good start from veteran Austin Gillotte, who has four sacks in 2023 after finishing 2022 with six.
Louisville is surrendering 6.3 yards per play against FBS opponents, which is, uh, not good. Very bad, in fact. Those three teams (GT, BC, Indiana) averaged 8.5 yards per pass attempt against the Cards and over 300 passing yards per game.
Georgia Tech and BC also averaged over four yards per carry, though didn’t rack up a ton of yardage there. Louisville has allowed 3.8 YPC against FBS teams, down a bit from the 3.6 it allowed in 2022.
Can NC State actually win the explosive play battle in this one? Stranger things have happened. It’ll take the best performance of the season from State’s offense, and sometimes playing under the lights at Carter-Finley inspires that kind of effort.
Louisville hasn’t faced a hostile environment all year (two home games, plus two neutral site games for some reason), so that might be a challenge for them early. This could be a fun one.