Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham has been a consistent presence in the Cardinals’ backfield since 2018, totaling 5,153 career yards and 43 touchdowns in his first three seasons with Louisville. So far this season, he’s already racked up 1,577 passing yards and eight touchdowns. He’s averaging around 50 rush yards per game, and he even caught a pass for nine yards earlier this season.
“I think they might be the most athletic offense that I’ve seen on tape, but I can’t say enough about Cunningham,” Boston College football head coach Jeff Hafley said in his weekly media availability on Wednesday.
With BC’s game against Louisville set to kick off on Saturday at 4 p.m., Hafley and his staff are centering their defensive game plan around a dynamic offense packed with speed at all positions, quarterback included.
“What’s different about [Louisville] is just the speed of the quarterback,” Hafley said. “You think you have a play stopped and you’re covered, and then all of a sudden you look up and you’re trying to figure out why the ball’s not thrown, and he’s 20 yards down the field running.”
Louisville has been known to produce dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks, most notably Lamar Jackson, who was drafted late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and became one of the league’s top active professional quarterbacks.
Hafley and his staff also have to gameplan for a versatile group of pass-catchers, starting with tight end Marshon Ford, the ACC’s second-leading tight end, who has 265 yards through the air this season.
“If you’re watching [film] and it’s not like blown up, [Ford] just looks like another wideout out there because that’s how athletic he is,” Hafley said. “They seem to rally behind him. … He works hard, he’s a tough kid, and he does things the right way.”
On BC’s offensive line, center Alec Lindstrom will have to adjust to playing against a zero nose, meaning Louisville’s nose tackle will line up directly against Lindstrom, forcing him to focus on one player all game long rather than working on double teams and back blocks.
BC’s practice regimen for the offensive line, then, has had to adjust as well.
“I said to Alec, ‘Hey how’d my man [Tyler Vrabel] look today?’ and he said ‘I didn’t see him coach. I was too busy blocking the nose the whole practice,’” Hafley said.
Like most football programs around the country, Lindstrom and the rest of his team rely on a core of scout team players—third-stringers and walk-ons, mostly—to imitate what BC can expect to see from its opponent in the upcoming week based on watching film. The scout team players rarely get reps on game day, and they usually don’t travel with the team to away games. Still, they serve a vital role.
“I appreciate … all those guys who are giving their all that give us a chance to win every day, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that,” Hafley said. “Those guys help us win as much as our starters do, truthfully, and they’re just as important as any player we have.”
After an 0–2 start to conference play, the Eagles will head to Louisville—the site of AJ Dillon’s famed breakout game in 2017—looking to get back on track. The Cardinals, with a win over conference opponent Florida State, sit just one spot ahead in the ACC Coastal Division standings.
Hafley will reach back into his bag of tricks to try to earn the Eagles their first conference win of the season.
“You’ll see some different things this week that I think you’ll be excited about,” Hafley said.
Featured Image by Timothy D. Easley / AP Photo