Film room: Louisville's offensive explosiveness will challenge No. 20 Duke football's elite defense

Duke's stingy defense will need to limit Louisville's offensive attack Saturday.
Duke's stingy defense will need to limit Louisville's offensive attack Saturday.

No. 20 Duke football has another league road trip as it takes on No. 18 Louisville. The Blue Zone breaks down film on the Cardinals: 

As Duke football looks to continue winning in what is already a surprising 2023 campaign, the Blue Devils are not the only ones who have been drawing attention within the ACC. After a disappointing loss to unranked Pittsburgh just after an upset win against then-No. 10 Notre Dame, Louisville is seeking a win in what looks to be one of the biggest games of the ACC slate. The Cardinals’ elite running game headed by redshirt junior back Jawhar Jordan and their much improved defense will be pivotal for Louisville Saturday. 

“This is a tough, physical, football team. They’ve played very, very well this year and in order for us to win, we’re going to have to play our best football,” said Louisville head coach Jeff Brohm ahead of the matchup against Duke.

The Cardinals will certainly need their best offense against the Blue Devils’ defense. While senior quarterback Jack Plummer has had a solid year so far, accumulating nearly 2,000 passing yards in the season, Louisville mostly finds its groove when rushing the ball. The difference-maker for the team has been Jordan, who racked up a whopping 143 rushing yards against Notre Dame. The Long Island, N.Y., native is not only quick with the ball but can take advantage of small holes and gaps in the line, listed as 5-foot-10. His experience and versatility has made him one of the best running backs in the conference. Watch him as he tears the Fighting Irish line to get a 45-yard touchdown: 

However, Jordan recently sustained a hamstring injury and was limited during the Pittsburgh game. Coming from a bye-week, he is still questionable to play the game. It must be pointed out that Jordan is only one of the Cardinals’ exceptional running backs. Most recently, sophomore Maurice Turner managed to accumulate a respectable 81 rushing yards against Pittsburgh. 

Although the Cardinals have not relied as much in the passing game this season, when they do pass, junior wide receiver Jamari Thrash has been remarkable. The LaGrange, Ga., native recently transferred from Georgia State, ranking fifth in school history in receiving yards. He was also named All-Sun Belt in 2022 and has a total of 639 receiving yards for the season. Thrash is not known only for his talent, but also for his consistency and ability to perform in the clutch. He can also rush the ball and is great at gaining extra yards after a catch. Watch as he displays his quickness and play-making ability against Georgia Tech: 

Louisville’s defense has been imposing, only allowing 20.6 points per game. Most notably, the unit was able to stop Notre Dame’s two fourth-down conversion attempts while getting three interceptions and a fumble. If there is one player who will give the most trouble to Duke’s offensive line, it will probably be junior defensive back Ashton Gillotte. The 6-foot-3 junior from Boca Raton, Fla., was recently included in the Chuck Bednarik Midseason Watch List and has 11 total solo sacks. His quickness and size disturb offensive linemen and he can make shifty quarterbacks like junior quarterback Riley Leonard pay when trying to rush the ball. Watch as he forces a crucial fumble down the stretch, wreaking havoc by pressuring Fighting Irish quarterback Sam Hartman. 

Headed by Gillotte and junior defensive back Jarvis Brownlee Jr., Louisville's defense will look to bounce back after conceding 24 points in the second half alone against Pittsburgh. The Cardinals also turned the ball over three times, including an 86-yard pick-six. If Duke’s defense can pressure the Cardinal’s offense and force turnovers, then they are poised to have a better game.

This being said, head coach Mike Elko’s squad should definitely be on the lookout for Louisville’s running game, especially if Jordan is cleared. It will be especially imperative for Duke’s defensive backs to play well, given Thrash’s play-making ability as well. While it is still uncertain as to whether Leonard will play or not, expect the Cardinals to blitz a lot and take advantage of the size and strength of their defensive linemen, headed by Gillotte. 

All signs point that this will be a highly competitive game, requiring significant defensive and offensive effort from either team.


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