When the Cards take the field on Saturday against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, they will be facing a freshman quarterback. In fact, it will be the third time this season that the quarterback facing the defense for the Cards will be a freshman. The other two games were Miami and Florida International.
The starter for the Demon Deacons, John Wolford, is a 6’1 freshman from Jacksonville, Florida. This season he is 87/145 (60%) for 883 yards. He has thrown 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His best game this season could also be called his worst game. In a 23-7 win against Gardner Webb, Wolford was 30/38 for 291 yards. He threw for 2 touchdowns but also had 3 interceptions. But you could also look at the season opener and call that his worst. In a 17-10 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, he was 12/22 for 97 yards with 0 touchdowns and 1 interception.
He was a 3-star quarterback coming out of high school. He also held offers from Mississippi State, Penn State, East Carolina, and more.
For the Miami Hurricanes, it was Brad Kaaya, who was playing in his first college game ever. Kaaya struggled against the fast defense of the Cards as he was 17/29 for 174 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. The Hurricanes are now 2-2, with wins over Florida A&M and Arkansas State. Their other loss was to Nebraska. For the season, Kaaya is now 73/117 (62.4%) for 1,052 yards with 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
The other was Florida International’s Alex McGough, who definitely struggled against Louisville. He was just 5/13 for 47 yards and 2 interceptions before leaving the game with an injury. For the season, he is 42/88 (47.7%) with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. FIU is now 1-3 on the season.
There is no doubt the strength for UofL so far this season has been the defense. There were question marks coming into the season because of a whole new system with Todd Grantham’s 3-4 style, not to mention replacing guys like Preston Brown, Marcus Smith, Brandon Dunn, Calvin Pryor, and Hakeem Smith, just to name a few.
The first half of the schedule this season is obviously not as tough as the second half. Although the offense has struggled, the defense has picked them up and held the opposition in check, and the Cards have been able to beat the teams they were supposed to, and drop one that they shouldn’t have. Even in that game at Virginia, the defense played great for the most part, and got put in some bad situations because of the offense.
I am not downplaying the defense because of the youth of the signal callers they have faced so far. I do think this defense is legit. Sure, they have benefited to this point from playing against young quarterbacks. But that could be just what they needed as they made this transition into a new scheme. The tests will surely get harder as the schedule does, when you face teams like Clemson, Florida State, and Notre Dame. I am not saying that this defense can shut those teams down like they have to this point, but they also shouldn’t be expected to. They will likely do their part and keep the Cards in the game just enough that if the offense ever does catch up to the play of the defense, this team can turn the corner this season.
As for this weekend, I don’t think it’s a huge deal or advantage that the defense for the Cards will be facing a freshman quarterback. Because if you ask me, I think the defense for Wake Forest will also be facing a freshman quarterback.