CHARLOTTESVILLE – A year ago, a dominating 27-3 home win over Louisville really signaled that Virginia would be a team to reckon with in the ACC. Then-new quarterback Bryce Perkins had an electrifying game and Bronco Mendenhall’s 3-4 defense worked the way it did for so many successful seasons during his time at BYU.
This season, Virginia heads to Louisville with a chance to remain atop the ACC Coastal Division standings. The Cavaliers control their own destiny for their first-ever division title, but a loss to Louisville could sink UVA back to the pack.
Cameron Teague Robinson is Cleveland, Ohio native and a 2015 graduate of Bowling Green State University. He began covering Louisville football is May 2019 after covering Missouri basketball and football for two years. He spends most of his off days trying to not to have his heart broken by the Cleveland Browns.
All season long, we'll bring you a look from the other side, getting the insight and thoughts of newspaper beat writers from Virginia and Virginia Tech's opponents. These are the local journalists who cover these teams on a daily basis. We hope it reminds you the value of reading local newspapers and their websites.
Teague Robinson took time out to answer four downs worth of questions about Louisville going into Saturday's game against Virginia.
1) Louisville was basically written off going into this season as a program that needed a massive rebuild. Instead, the Cardinals are 4-3 and 2-2 in the league. What's gone right and is it a surprise to Louisville?
Louisville has surprised pretty much everybody. I'd be willing to bet if you put the people inside the program on truth serum, even they would say they are surprised. Louisville's offense struggled against Clemson, but it's found some consistency with Javian Hawkins at running back and when the quarterbacks are playing well they can put up points. The defense has a bend-but-don't-break mentality. They are going to give up yards but have been able to force turnovers the last three weeks. The Clemson game looks bad on the box score, but they were much improved in that game.
2) UVA QB Bryce Perkins became a big name around here when he hurdled a Louisville defender in last year's game, announcing his presence with authority, to steal from a classic baseball movie. How does Louisville view Perkins' dual-threat abilities and how will it try to defend him?
Scott Satterfield raved about Perkins ability to make plays with his feet. I think you'll see Louisville spy Perkins at times on Saturday depending on the formation they come out in. They've been beat by quarterback runs this year so Satterfield and defensive coordinator Bryan Brown have emphasized containing Perkins as much as possible.
3) Speaking of defense, that's certainly been the Cardinals weak spot of late. Statistically, they haven't been good against the run or the pass. What's missing and what does the unit believe it can improve this season?
Believe it or not there was a time this season when the defense was Louisville's strength. In the first four games the Cardinals tallied 11 sacks they have just three in the last three games. Louisville's secondary just isn't good enough to hold up for that long. Also the Cardinals still have mental mistakes on that side of the ball. They've been much better at getting to the ball and slowing down running backs not named Travis Etienne, but there's plenty of room to grow. They have to finish games out better and cut down on mental mistakes. If they do that they have a shot in every game the rest of the way.
4) Offensively, Louisville has put up big numbers led by running back Javian Hawkins and wide receivers Dez Fitzpatrick and Tutu Atwell. What's going on at quarterback, though? Will the Cardinals play both Evan Conley and Micale Cunningham on Saturday?
Cunningham and Evan Conley will definitely play on Saturday. Both have played well since conference season began, but neither have separated themselves to be the only one to earn playing time. I'd expect Satterfield to play them both until that happens, because the offense doesn't really drop off when he makes a switch. They'll have to play better on Saturday, though. The worry is if one gets hurt. Jawon Pass is already out for the year and Cunningham and Conley are the only other quarterbacks on scholarship.