In what was a fitting end to U of L’s major collapse in the 2016 season, the Cardinals fell to LSU 29-9. Derrius Guice led the Tigers with 138 yards and two total touchdowns, while Malachi Dupre also had a stellar game with 139 yards against a depleted Louisville secondary.
Offensive Line Struggles, Klenakis’ Future
To start, the offensive line was once again disappointing. LSU had multiple guys all over Jackson, and not even his electrifying agility and speed could do much. The Cardinals allowed eight sacks yesterday, including a safety late in the second quarter. With a poor showing from the offensive line to close the season, Klenakis’ is feeling thermonuclear levels of heat with his role as co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach being put into question.
Outside of a big pass to Quick really early in the game, Louisville was not as explosive for most of the afternoon. The Cardinals were held to a season low 220 yards of offense. Lamar Jackson finished with a 37% completion percentage and 1.3 yards per carry, easily the lowest marks of the season. Louisville had opportunities to score touchdowns in the second half, but dropped passes and blown protection limited the Cardinals to only three field goals from Blanton Creque. The loss marked the first time Louisville did not score a touchdown since 2010, when Pitt defeated Louisville 20-3.
Defense Shines With New Faces
In spite of giving up 400+ yards and Guice having a great game for the Tigers, the defense played pretty well given the circumstances. Zack Cannon had a key turnover in the second quarter that resulted in another field goal, but the Cardinals could not get any offense going to turn it into a touchdown instead. Some of it can be pointed to the fact that Louisville went three-and-out on offense numerous times, which can lead to a tired defense taking the field over and over again.
With numerous injuries in the secondary, LSU found opportunities in their play action game with Malachi Dupre. Dupre had a monster game with seven catches for 139 yards, leading the Tigers in both categories. Derrius Guice had a stellar day with 138 yards and two total touchdowns, showing why he was an All-SEC running back.
As much as it was a trial by fire for some of Louisville’s less experienced defensive starters, some like Khane Pass earned valuable playing time and more experience heading into 2017.
If Louisville (in general) went 9-4 with a Heisman Trophy winner and in the national spotlight for a majority of the season, most would consider that a somewhat successful season. But with the way that Louisville finished — and in particular, how poor the offensive line played and the constant turnovers to end the season — it left a really sour taste in most fans’ mouths.
The first half of the season may have been the most exciting in the program’s history, with a historic beatdown of then #2 Florida State, first ever College Gameday visit and an uber-competitive game against Clemson. But it just never seemed like Louisville ever fully recovered from that loss.
While the blowouts against NC State and Boston College were certainly encouraging, disappointing efforts against Virginia and Wake Forest, and upsetting losses at Houston and Kentucky will certainly leave Louisville football fans very disappointed. There will be a lot of questions around Klenakis’ future with U of L along with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, and also questions about who will replace key players like Josh Harvey-Clemons and Keith Kelsey. But with an easier 2017 schedule that has a lighter out-of-conference itinerary, it will be interesting to see if Petrino decides to make changes or stay the course with his current staff.