LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 29: Jaylen Smith #9 of the Louisville Cardinals tries to break a tackle after catching a pass against Asante Samuel Jr. #26 of the Florida State Seminoles in the second quarter of the game at Cardinal Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. Florida State came from behind to win 28-24. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

5 questions with a Louisville beat writer

For insight into Georgia Tech’s opponent this week, Louisville beat writer Jake Lourim offered his analysis of the Cardinals on behalf of the AJC. He is in his second year covering Louisville for the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky. You can read his coverage here and follow him on Twitter here.

Q: To this point, Louisville got crushed by Alabama, beat an FCS and a Group of 5 team, lost badly to Virginia and then probably should have beaten Florida State. what’s your sense of this team at 2-3 – Bowl team? Lucky to get to four wins? About to turn a corner?

A: The first five games went about as badly for Louisville as possible. I’m not sure I see the path to six wins for this team. Assuming the Cardinals lose at Boston College, at Clemson and at home against Kentucky, they’d have to beat Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Syracuse (on the road) and NC State to break even. Those are all winnable games, but it’s hard to see Louisville winning them all.

Four wins sounds about right. That would mean Louisville splits those four winnable games. The offense improved a bit on Saturday, but it’s not going to put up the production it needs to put up this season. Plus, for Louisville fans, I think you have to be concerned about the fact that it was a bad Florida State team on the other sideline Saturday.

Q: How much different is the offense without Lamar Jackson?

A: It’s a completely different offense, because there is only one Lamar Jackson and because new quarterback Jawon Pass fits more in the pocket passer mold. The reason Louisville has struggled so much this season is that this team depended so much on Jackson, and it’d be pretty much impossible to replace that level of production.

Louisville didn’t have a consistent running back last year, and the scheme was geared toward Jackson. It’s been a slow rebuilding process.

Q: Regardless of position, who’s the best player on the team?

A: That’s hard to say. Maybe … Mekhi Becton? Louisville’s massive offensive tackle is having another good season. The offensive line has its problems, but Becton has been very solid in stopping the pass rush.

On defense, I’d say Dorian Etheridge. It’s clear how much of a difference he makes as the team’s communicator at middle linebacker. And there’s still a chance it’s wide receiver Jaylen Smith by the end of the season. He would have been my pick before the year started, but a few drops in the first month have hindered him.

Q: In Atlanta, the first thing that registers with people about Bobby Petrino is how he left the Falcons near the end of the 2007 season without telling the team face to face to take the Arkansas job. Perhaps needless to say, not the most popular guy. I’m curious how Louisville fans view him.

A: Yes, that’s certainly up there. Louisville fans would counter with Petrino’s departure for Atlanta one year earlier, a few months after he signed a 10-year contract extension.

The Louisville fan base is definitely growing impatient with Petrino this season. The school brought him back before the 2014 season because he was an offensive mastermind, and his offense has been ineffective this season. In that sense, he has frustrated fans.

The decision to pass on first down while leading with two minutes left on Saturday, which resulted in an interception and then Florida State’s game-winning touchdown, did not help matters.

Q: What are a few places that visiting Georgia Tech fans might want to patronize in Louisville?

A: The Louisville Slugger Museum downtown is a good place to spend some time. Mussel and Burger Bar and Doc Crow’s are two good places to eat not far from there. It’s too bad this game wasn’t a week earlier, or fans could have gone to watch the races at Churchill Downs, which is a stone’s throw away from Cardinal Stadium. 

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