Thursday, August 31, 2017

No. 16 Louisville comes in as a heavy favorite, but not taking Purdue lightly

Going into Saturday’s game as a near-four touchdown favorite at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, No. 16 Louisville knows the lofty expectations, but can’t take Purdue as an exhibition game.

Defending Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson will have to shoulder more of the load with wide receiver Devante Peete out for the season with an undisclosed injury. On top of the added pressure on offense, the Louisville defense could face as many as three Purdue quarterbacks on Saturday.

Despite the increased responsibilities, Jackson appears to be better than ever and coach Bobby Petrino believes the sky’s the limit for the junior.

“One of the neat things about Lamar right now is that a play will take place and he’ll turn around to me and say: ‘He needed to snap that’ or ‘He needed to run out of his break’, and I’ll say: ‘Go tell him.’ Petrino said in Monday’s press conference. “He’s seeing it, he’s understanding that the receiver needs to do this better, and that is a huge step from two years ago when he first got here. I think that says a lot right there.”

The running back position appears to be a toss-up as former quarterback/wide receiver Reggie Bonnafon, Jeremy Smith and Malik Williams will likely get close to an equal amount of carries depending on how the tempo of the game goes.

Louisville’s biggest question mark will be the offensive line and how it gels after losing three starters from last season. Junior offensive tackle Lukayis McNeil anchors the line and has started 21 games in his first two seasons.

Familiarity rings supreme for Purdue first-year coach Jeff Brohm as a former Louisville quarterback (1989-93) and QB/assistant coach (2003-08) returns to go against his alma mater in Indianapolis.

Brohm’s main priority will be coming up with various ways to slow down Jackson and has used ample practice time simulating specific play calls.

“Of course, we've watched a lot of video. We've seen the teams where he's ran all over and seen a few other teams that maybe have corralled him to a certain degree, and I think we have to do that,” Brohm said in Monday’s weekly Purdue teleconference.

“So I think we need to give him different looks. You have to make sure you don't rush past the quarterback in a passing situation. You've got to make sure, when your quarterback is doing all the quarterback runs, which they do a heavy dose of it, you've got to know that he has a chance to have the ball. You've got to contain him.”

David Blough’s status remains in the air after suffering a shoulder injury in fall camp two weeks ago, but if cleared to play, will take the majority of the snaps with the possibility of sophomore Elijah Sindelar and redshirt freshman Jared Sparks having a select package of plays, which could keep the Cardinals on their toes for all four quarters.

Junior Markell Jones spearheads the Boilermaker backfield and amassed 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016. His speed and shiftiness could give Louisville’s defense fits.

Louisville/Purdue fast facts:

-      - Saturday’s game is the second time in school history in which Purdue will play the winner of the previous season’s Heisman Trophy winner.

-      - This is the second meeting all-time with the first ending in a 22-22 tie in 1987.