Shawn ~nbsp>Watson | Kenny ~nbsp>Carter | Senorise ~nbsp>Perry
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - What a difference a year makes for the University of Louisville offense, especially for offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.
Watson took over the play-calling duties last season after head coach Charlie Strong made a change at the offensive coordinator spot. At many times a year ago, Watson's formations featured at least eight freshmen on the field.
This year, with numerous weapons and players with more experience, Watson has been able to maintain a successful balance of offense in the air and on the ground.
"That's what we expected of Shawn," said running backs coach Kenny Carter. "We've been around him, and Shawn is a great coordinator. He's done it for over 20 years and knows what he's doing. It's a big deal to him to make sure we maintain balance and that's what we did."
With a full year under his belt at offensive coordinator, Watson's offense looked like an entirely new unit on Sunday in the 32-14 victory over Kentucky. In the win, the Cardinals recorded 466 yards of total offense and had two 100-yard rushers in juniors Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright.
"It was pretty clean football," said Watson. "I thought our backs ran really well. Senorise and Jeremy have developed into the type of runners in our zone scheme you want to see on film. They were one cut football. They ran physical. The receivers played well and Teddy (Bridgewater) really had an exceptional game."
Teddy Bridgewater was exceptional, going 19-for-21 for 232 yards, spreading the football around to nine different receivers, which is a sign that Bridgewater has a grasp of the offense and displays the confidence he has in the players around him.
"I'm not a statistic guy," said Watson. "But I think I was told nine guys caught passes in the game, and that's the nature of the offense. That's the difference between Teddy this year and Teddy last year. He didn't understand all the weapons he had and how to use those weapons. Now, he knows what weapons he has and how to use them."
One of the pleasant surprises in the game on Sunday was the play of junior wide receiver Damian Copeland, who caught four passes for 51 yards. After three injury-plagued seasons, Copeland burst on the scene in the spring and has continued his development through fall camp. The product of Palmetto High School made the play of the game. On third down and the Cardinals in the shadows of their own end zone, Bridgewater connected with Copeland on 20-yard pass play that spearheaded a 99-yard drive, leading the Cardinals to their first score.
"He came on in the spring, and what you saw Saturday is what type of spring he had," said Watson. "He started delivering plays and started making explosive plays. He gained a lot of confidence in what he is doing and he has learned to use his skills. He is one of the fastest receivers we have on our team. He would be in our top two. It's an added dimension to our offense that we didn't have last season."
The offensive line certainly played a valuable role, leading the Cardinals to 219 yards on the ground and giving Bridgewater time to throw the football, as the Cardinals opened the game with scores on three straight possessions.
"Our offensive line does a great job," said Carter. "Dave Borbely is as good of an offensive line coach as there is in the country, and if they just listen to him, they'll be able to continue to improve as the season goes along. And the running backs know it's their responsibility to make those guys right regardless of what the play call is."