Miami football limiting explosive plays critical versus Louisville

MIAMI, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 09: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 09: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Miami football team will need to limit explosive plays on defense by the Louisville offense when the teams play at Cardinal Stadium Saturday night.

Louisville had four plays over 40 yards in their season-opening victory over Western Kentucky on Saturday. The Miami Hurricanes defense allowed only one play of 30 or more yards against UAB. Limiting big plays by the Cardinals will be critical for the Miami football team when they play Louisville in Primetime on Saturday night.

Louisville wide receivers Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick are explosive receivers who have the potential score once they are in the open field. Running back Javian Hawkins is also dangerous in the open field. Atwell’s four plays of 70 or more yards in 2019 were first in FBS. Hawkins nine plays of 40 or more yards tied for sixth.

Fitzpatrick scorched Western Kentucky for a 70-yard touchdown reception on Saturday. Keeping the Louisville skill position players in front of them is a key for the Miami defense. Atwell roasted Miami for six receptions for 142 yards and an 80 yard TD in the Hurricanes 52-27 victory last season.

During an appearance on the Joe Rose Show on WQAM on Monday morning, Miami head coach Manny Diaz spoke about the Louisville goal of establishing the running game with Hawkins and limiting the explosive plays. One big play from the Cardinals offensively can flip the entire game.

"“The key isn’t really different than it is any other week…They want to run the football. They may be the outside zone running team in the country…you have to stop the run and then limit the explosive plays.You get so tied up in the run game that they play-action pass and hit somebody in the flat or try to throw it over your head.”"

The Louisville WRs were the key to the Cardinals’ victory in their season opener. Fitzpatrick had four receptions for 110 yards and a 70 yard TD, Branden Smith 4-110 with a long of 63 and two receptions of at least 30 yards and Atwell 7-78. Atwell’s longest reception on Saturday was for 17 yards.

Hawkins was somewhat limited on Saturday with 19 carries for 71 yards. He only broke for two runs over 10 yards. In 2019, Hawkins tied for third nationally with nine runs of 40 or more yards. Miami needs to limit big plays from the Louisville offense Saturday.

The balance Louisville is able to accomplish offensively makes them ever more dangerous. If Miami commits to stopping the Louisville run, the Cardinals WRs get behind the Miami secondary or as Diaz stated get to their playmakers in the flat. Atwell’s 80 yard TD against Miami in 2019 was mostly a catch and run.

Louisville is as good as anyone in the ACC at quarterback, RB and WR. Micale Cunningham is a true dual threat QB. Cunningham threw for 343 yards, three TDs and one interception in the season opener. Cunningham was an adept runner in 2019 with 482 yards and six TDs. Diaz talked about the Cardinals dynamic offensively.

"“If you look at our league and the three-headed monster of running back, quarterback, and wide receiver, they have to be in the upper echelon—[Louisville], Clemson, and North Carolina.”"

The 2020 schedule does not allow the Miami football team a chance to ease into the schedule. Miami played a tough UAB team in the season opener and Louisville begins the first of 10 straight games against the ACC to finish the season. Lousville will test the Miami defense as much as anyone the Hurricanes play in 2020.

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Limiting big plays by the Cardinals offense will be a key in the outcome of the game on ABC Primetime College Football. Its a good chance for Miami to perform well in the marque game of the week. It’s the first time the Hurricanes will be in the college football spotlight game of the week since the 2019 opener versus Florida.