Like everyone else, Louisville’s defense works on the deep ball every day in practice. However, unlike everyone else, they put even more time into it, especially in the spring and fall camps.
Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino mentioned during his Monday press conference that his team spent some practice time in the spring and over the summer preparing for Clemson and Florida State, knowing the ACC’s Atlantic Division title runs through both schools.
Because of quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Mike Williams, the Cardinals devoted a little more time to the deep pass in preparation for the Tigers’ aerial attack.
“The one thing you know about Deshaun is that he throws the deep ball about as well as anybody,” said Petrino as he prepares his No. 4 Cardinals to come into Death Valley on Saturday night to face No. 3 Clemson. “That is something that he really did well as a young freshman. He is one of the best deep ball throwers in the country.”
Though Watson has been a little off this year with his deep passes, the Cardinals know it is just a matter of time before the reigning ACC Player of the Year gets things turnaround. It appeared he started to turn that corner last week at Georgia Tech as he completed 32 of 48 passes for 304 yards and two scores.
“He is so smart, man,” said Louisville defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown in an interview with the media on TheCrunchZone.com. “He is very smart in the pocket. He does not make bad decisions. He is a very athletic guy. He has a strong arm and is very accurate. It is going to be fun to get out there and play against him.”
Though the Cardinals are ranked 13th in the country in total defense, Brown admits Watson will be the best challenge to this point. The last two weeks they have faced two freshmen quarterbacks in Florida State’s Deondre Francois and Marshall’s Garet Morrell.
The best, and most experienced, quarterback they have faced to this point is Syracuse’s Eric Dungey, a sophomore who completed 25 of 51 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns against the Cardinals in Week 2 of the season.
“I know we have guys in our secondary that our going to give us the time to get to (Watson), and we have to make sure we can get to him so he does not have time to throw the ball all day,” Brown said. “We know we have to get there. We can’t let him stand there and think ‘Oh, I got time.’ We have to speed up his clock and we have to make him think, ‘As soon as I get the ball I have to get it out of my hands.’
“We just have to get after him, which I know we will do.”
However, Louisville’s defense understands Watson is a different player than the others they have faced because of his big-play ability and his experience in playing big games. The Clemson signal-caller is 22-2 as a starter, which includes wins over Notre Dame, Florida State, North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game and Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Orange Bowl. Let’s also not forget about his performance against Alabama in the National Championship Game.
“It is going to be a great challenge. He has obviously been there before,” Brown said. “He has played in the national championship game and he knows what he is doing back there. It is going to be a great challenge to get back there and throw him off his rhythm. We are looking forward to it.”
Petrino just hopes they are ready for his deep ball. They’ve been preparing for it since the spring.
“We have to defend it,” the Louisville coach said. “We spent a lot of time in the off-season working on defending the deep ball and one of the great ways to defend it is to get a great pass rush, put pressure on them, and disrupt the routes so they don’t get down the field as quick as they would like. It is a good challenge for us.”