Neal Brown has put in a ton of work this week preparing to face the nation’s #13 defense. The Cards move around a lot before the snap in an attempt to confuse offenses, with that confusion sometimes leading to the dreaded false start penalty (something the Cats’ OLine has done often so far). That extra movement won’t mean the QB will be looking to the sideline for an audible, but it puts more pressure on the offensive line, “They do a good job mixing it up. We’ve practiced that a lot this week. Western did some of that too so we’ve seen a little bit of that. I think our guys up front will be able to handle that a little better this week.” The Cats can’t afford any confusion; U of L’s intensity defensively will smack you in the mouth if you aren’t ready to smack right back. “The thing that sticks out about their defense, is when you turn it on, you see guys fly to the football,” Brown said today, “They play with a lot of energy, a lot of passion, they’re physical and they fly to the football. If I was coaching defense that’s how I’d want my guys to play…We’ve got to come out and match that intensity.”
Preparing the team mentally is just one asset to the game. On Saturday, we saw an offense that had QBs rotating in and out during the same drive, something rarely seen at any level of football. Part of the reason it worked was the practice Coach Brown put in beforehand, “It takes a little bit more preparation. Mentally I have to be really in-tune with who’s in the football game as to what I’m calling. I probably get our game plans done earlier now, because for me I’ve got to practice that rotation Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday to get it down for Saturday.” There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the substituting, with Brown relying on the flow of the game to determine who was going in. However it wasn’t too willy-nilly, most of the subs came during dead balls to make sure it didn’t negatively affect the high-tempo offense.
In order for the rotating system to work, it requires the right attitude from both of the Quarterbacks. It’s easy to question whether or not they ‘get it’ from afar, but today they both handled themselves very business-like, not stressing the big picture and staying focused on the task at hand. When Whitlow was asked what the U of L defense does to make his job more difficult, he replied, “I think we just have to focus on ourselves, just go out there and do our job. Don’t try to worry about other people, just do your job and see how it turns out.” If you watch the video below you can see Max could care less about the opponent, but acknowledges that their defense will bring some challenges, “They blitz a lot that’s for sure. I guess it makes it uncomfortable for Quarterbacks sometimes when teams blitz.”
The QBs have the right mindset heading into Saturday, and by judging Stoops’ comments today- reporting a much better practice- the entire team seems to have embraced that attitude.
What does Max Smith remember from last year’s game? “I know we lost, that’s about what I remember.”
Some More Notes
– Will Demarco play? Demarco Robinson proved against WKU that he’s ready to embrace the role as one of the team’s best playmakers, getting the job done at both WR and as a returner on Special Teams. After rolling his ankle on the opening return Saturday, he sat out for the remainder of the game. Javess Blue was asked to step in to be the playmaker upon his departure, living up to expectations despite being thrown off guard, “It kind of happened fast. I didn’t expect that, I didn’t even know he was hurt until I saw him sitting on the sideline so it was something I had to react to fast. It’s something we worked on during this week’s practice.” That last comment, coupled with Stoops saying that, “we’ve worked a lot on that this week”, when talking about practicing the returners that didn’t fare so well last week, it doesn’t seem that Marco will be much of a factor on Saturday.
– Winning the coin toss could decide who gets the early momentum Saturday. In Week 1, the Toppers had it first and drove it right down the field. The exact opposite scenario happened last week, turning the positive momentum into 5 straight scoring drives. Neal Brown sees it helping both sides of the ball, “We got the ball first on Saturday and were able to go down and get a lead. With our young guys, I think getting control of that game early was beneficial; I think it helped our defense.”
– All of the talk about pressure, intensity and any other mental aspects of the game has been a point of emphasis for the team throughout the year. Hopefully the goosebumps/butterflies are out of the newcomers’ systems, with 4 freshman leading the way in receiving last Saturday. Coach Brown isn’t too worried about the freshman playing wide-eyed this Saturday, “The good thing about the young guys is they don’t know any better. Last week was their first home game, the week before was their first game ever, this is their first Louisville game; they just kind of go with the flow…They realize the importance but I don’t think they’re going to approach the game any differently than they have. They better approach different than they did the first one.”