The Syracuse Orange offense is fast-paced and aggressive, with a mobile quarterback to help complicate matters further. The Louisville Cardinals also play at a quicker pace, and their quarterback’s mobility is what makes him among the country’s most dangerous dual-threats.
Both teams can and will create struggles for opponents, including each other, this Friday night at the Carrier Dome. So how is each team preparing for what’s up next?
Syracuse.com’s Stephen Bailey spoke to members of the Orange defense to get the scoop on how they’d shut down Lamar Jackson. It starts with walk-on QB Mo Hasan, a dual-threat from the Miami area.
SU’s defenders don’t claim to believe it’s a perfect match -- and that’s without taking into consideration the (very) likely gap in passing proficiency between the two players — but having the “sneaky fast” (per Zaire Franklin) Hasan running plays every 10-15 seconds is at least helping the team prepare for what they’ll see vs. Louisville.
Last Thursday, Jackson was 17-of-23 for 286 yards and six scores. More pressingly, he also ran 11 times for 119 yards and two more touchdowns. He’s a dual-threat who can definitely pass the football (you don’t just fall into six TDs against ANY opponent). However, the real fear for SU is what he can do running the football once he gets to the edge.
Colgate’s Jake Melville didn’t necessarily live up to his dual-threat billing against SU (11 carries for 10 yards), but he was able to take off around the edge a couple times against the Orange to gain some valuable yards. Syracuse made up the difference with team speed, but against a much faster player (Jackson) than Melville, those same gaps could be exploited in a hurry. Freshman defensive end Kendall Coleman seems to understand what’s being asked of him an the rest of the Orange defenders, as he told Bailey: "We've got to make sure that we stay in our gap, keep our rush lanes the way that they're supposed to be and keep contain always.”
Over on the Louisville side, they’re preparing for the speed of the SU attack using the same defense that shut down Charlotte last week. The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Steve Jones spoke with the team, and it doesn’t appear that they’re changing a whole lot for his week — in part because they implemented a test run of it all last week.
The key, for the Cardinals, will be the dime package they began implementing. Utilizing five- and six-defensive back sets, the hope is that they’re able to stop Syracuse from spreading the field wide. Various times against Colgate, the Orange were able to confuse the Raiders and find easy holes as the team simply could not put themselves in the right position to cover the many receiving options on the field.
When speaking with Louisville, Jones highlighted safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (also ID’d by Card Chronicle as a key cog) as essential to the whole scheme working. He’ll play a “middle linebacker” position in the scheme that’s sort of similar to what SU’s Tampa-2 wants of Zaire Franklin or any middle linebacker long-term.
Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Grantham doesn’t appear to be overly worried about the speed they’ll see, though, especially given last week’s result with the dime package. As he told Jones:
"We've played fast teams before, and we'll play them again, It's the way college football is, so we understand that. We know as soon as we make a tackle, we have to get lined up and go play. So we'll deal with it."
With two teams that can put up points in a hurry, Friday’s matchup could be quite the high-scoring affair. Syracuse’s defense is at a disadvantage from a talent perspective, which doesn’t help their case. But perhaps scheme helps make up for that a little? It’ll need to if they have a chance at stopping Jackson and the rest of the Cards’ attack.