Scouting the opposition: Louisville, first big challenge for Houston
After a successful start to the season, the 1-0 Houston Cougars turn their attention to the first road test of the 2015 season. The team will travel to Louisville Saturday to take on the 0-1 University of Louisville Cardinals for an 11 a.m. kick off at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
“It’s a huge test,” head coach Tom Herman said. “Not just (because of) the personnel and the quality of talent that they have on all sides of the football — their coaching staff is fantastic as well — but to go on the road in an (Atlantic Coast Conference) environment. We have to go out there and execute how we were trained to execute.”
True freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson will make his first start after finishing as the team’s leading passer and rusher against Auburn University. Jackson proved that he can be a dual threat with 106 rushing yards, including a touchdown and 100 passing yards with an interception.
In the season opener against No. 6 Auburn, Louisville fell behind 14-0 early after two Cardinal turnovers. In the final quarter, Louisville scored two rushing touchdowns with 2:59 remaining, but the Cardinals were unable to finish the upset and fell 31-24.
Cardinals junior Brandon Radcliff will be the leading running back after putting up 76 yards and two touchdowns on the stingy Tiger defense in week one. Radcliff has a hard-nose running style and will be a threat in goal line situations.
The Cardinals’ top receiver, junior James Quick, is not expected to play Saturday after suffering a severely sprained ankle against Auburn.
Quick’s injury leaves a lot of questions at the position for Louisville, as they are already without junior wide receiver Jamari Staples, who is out with a knee injury. This leaves inexperienced sophomore Charles Standberry and true freshman Traveon Samuel as top candidates to step up.
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s unit specializes in creating turnovers. The Cardinals have been one of the best in the country at forcing turnovers during the last couple of seasons, recording at least one in the last 17 games dating back to the 2013 season and finishing first in the ACC in 2014 with 30 takeaways.
Key defenders to watch will be junior safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who finished with 14 tackles and two interceptions in the Auburn game, and sophomore cornerback Trumaine Washington, who also pulled in an interception along with seven tackles in the opener.
All week, Herman and company have preached to the players about not only the difficulties of beating a good team in their own house, but also the rewards of taking down a high-profile team like Louisville.
“I’m very excited,” junior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. said. “They’re an ACC team, and we’re just ready to go out there and show everybody what we’ve been doing and play our best against a team like that.”