Playing Together, Tracking Legaux the Challenge for Louisville
A big challenge awaits 14th-ranked Louisville on defense when rival Cincinnati arrives at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Friday night. The Bearcats rank 16th nationally in rushing offense averaging more than 225 yards on the ground per game and they rank 24th in the nation in scoring offense tallying nearly 35 points per outing. The key for the Cardinals in defending the explosive offensive attack from Cincinnati starts up front with how their defensive line and linebackers work together for 60 minutes.
“Nothing is easy and the front seven has to come to play as one,” said Louisville junior nose tackle Brandon Dunn following Tuesday’s practice. “We have to understand that we have to play as a unit. In the last game (against USF), we didn’t do that enough. We showed flashes of it, but we have to put a whole game together.”
The task of stopping Cincinnati is made tougher because of junior quarterback Munchie Legaux. The 6-5, 199-pound signal caller is completing more than 53 percent of his passes this season for an average of nearly 240 yards per game through the air, but he is also a threat on the ground averaging six yards per carry on his 44 attempts in 2012.
“He’s very athletic,” said Dunn. “They do the zone-read in the spread, so if he pulls it, we have to make sure we have a body on him — not just one but a couple of them. We have to get to the ball. He does a lot of things in the spread that can cause you problems. He can throw the deep ball and he spreads the ball out everywhere. He’s a well-balanced quarterback.”
Balanced Bearcats May Lean on Running Game
Surrounding Legaux is a group of talented play-makers led by senior running back George Winn. The 5-11, 202-pound Winn is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and more than 101 yards per game for the Bearcats’ potent running attack. In the passing game, Legaux’s top targets are seniors Kenbrell Thompkins (18 receptions, 276 yards, 1 TD) and Damon Julian (14 receptions, 243 yards, 3 TD). Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, the Cardinals will have a tough task on Friday.
“They have a good running back and some good receivers, so they have a core of good players,” said junior linebacker Preston Brown on Tuesday. “They can run the ball and they can swing it around with their receivers. They have a very balanced offense and they put up a lot of points. I think they’ll come in here and try to run the ball a lot, especially with happened last week. They probably saw some gaps where they think they can do the same thing (as USF).”
Friday Night Matchup Forces Shortened Week of Prep
This week’s game will provide the Cardinals’ with their first shortened week of practice thanks to the Friday night kickoff on national television (ESPN). With one less day of preparation, Louisville has condensed its normal game-week schedule by delaying the NCAA required off day from on-field work from Monday to Saturday. However, the lack of an off-day between last week’s win over USF and this week’s game against Cincinnati shouldn’t be an issue for the Louisville players.
“It’s a short week and we have to keep grinding through it,” said Dunn. “Everybody is excited and we’re giving everything we have on Friday because on Saturday, we get to relax a little bit. We believe (preseason) camp was the hardest thing we’ve ever been through, so a short week isn’t going to hurt us. It’s a quick switch in game-planning, but we know we have to come ready to play on Friday.”
Cards’ Cincinnati Native Ready for Rivalry Game
Preston Brown is a Cincinnati native having played prep football at Northwest High School, so this week’s game with his hometown Bearcats does have some added meaning. However, more important than where he’s from and how that relates to the game is the impact of playing another conference showdown against a long-time rival for his Cardinals.
“It’s not that much different. It’s just another game against a BIG EAST team and it’s a rival for Louisville, so that’s why it means more to us,” said Brown. “The rivalry feels bigger now, especially since we’re both undefeated in the conference. They’ve also beaten us the last couple of times, so we need to get this win.”