Defense wins championships! That’s a cliche’ used by many coaches and fans. However, if the University of Louisville is going to be a championship team, it must rely on its experienced defense.
While the youthful offense continues to find its way and develop with a variety of talented student-athletes, the defense continues to be there play after play. The Cardinals, who are young in the secondary, continue to use pressure to cause havoc to the opposition.
Here’s where the Cardinals rank nationally in defense after the first five contests:
- Rushing Defense — 10th (85.20)
- Passing Efficiency Defense — 72nd (133.29)
- Total Defense — 16th (298.20)
- Scoring Defense — 13th (16.20)
- Pass Defense — 50th (213.00)
- Sacks — T-10th (3.00)
- Tackles for Loss — T-2nd (8.80)
Louisville ranks 13th in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 16.2 points per game after yielding just 14 second-half points to North Carolina, more than 17 points fewer than its season’s scoring average. The Cardinals have allowed over 20 points just one time this season in a 24-17 loss to FIU. The Tar Heels, who entered the game averaging 411.0 yards per game, were limited to a season-low 264 yards of total offense. North Carolina, which was averaging 178.4 yards on the ground and 232.6 yards through the air, finished with just 86 yards rushing and 178 yards passing.
“Overall, the team thinks that when we might get beat, we rise to the occasion,” said senior defensive end William Savoy. “Sometimes we play down to our opponents, which is not good. We’ve got to mature as a team. Any game where we’re really scared that we might get beat, we kind of raise the bar. Over time, we will gain our maturity. Even if it is a lower level team, we’ve got to play hard anyway. We’ll get there over time.”
The Cardinals have played well against the run, ranking 10th in the nation at 85.20 yards per game. Louisville held the solid UNC running game to 2.7 yards per carry. The Cardinals have held three opponents to less than 100 yards rushing after last week’s performance and have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season (Mike Harris of Murray State 116 yards).
The Cardinals start their third season this weekend with the beginning of BIG EAST Conference play.
“The BIG EAST is wide open,” stated Savoy. “That always has kind of been the thing with this conference. There really is not a dominant team. Any week, you can go and get beat if you’re not ready, so this is wide open.”
Louisville’s first conference opponent comes in the form of the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.
“They can run. They have a pretty good offense,” said Savoy. “We’ve just got to dial it up this week. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The coaches upstairs make all of the adjustments. We just have to follow through and execute.”
Head coach Charlie Strong relishes taking his team on the road and talks to his squad all the time about what his team needs to do to be successful to win away from Louisville. Savoy knows the drill all too well.
“He tells us to play great defense,” said Savoy. “Pack your defense on the road and just win games. He (coach Strong) believes we can be a top team and we’ve got to start believing that.”