Louisville Defense Focused on Bulls
Prior to last week’s BIG EAST Conference opener at Pittsburgh, Louisville head coach Charlie Strong said the game marked the start of a new season and that each of the 14th-ranked Cardinals’ seven league contests would be approached as one-game seasons. That message quickly made its home in the Louisville lockerroom and following the win over the Panthers last Saturday, the mindset was reinforced by the Cardinals’ defensive players entering this week’s matchup with USF.
“We are trying to remain focused,” said Louisville safety Hakeem Smith after Wednesday’s practice session. “This is a big game for us and we’re taking things one game at a time. The Pittsburgh game is over and we have to turn our focus to a good South Florida team. We are going to face a good quarterback in B.J. Daniels and keeping him in the pocket.”
USF Record Doesn’t Tell the Story
Louisville coaches and players aren’t putting too much emphasis on the Bulls’ 2-4 record entering Saturday’s Homecoming game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (3:30 p.m., ET/ABC Regional). Throughout the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex, everyone remembers that Louisville opened the 2011 season with a 2-4 mark before winning five of its last six games en route to a share of the BIG EAST title.
“They’re a good football team. They have 25 seniors and we give them the utmost in respect,” said Cardinals’ defensive tackle Brandon Dunn. “They’re in the same position we were in last year. They’re going to fight. We understand that as a team and we can’t give in to them. They’re 2-4 but we don’t look at them based on that.”
Unique Challenge Awaits Cards’ Defensive Front
USF presents a difficult matchup with its multi-faceted offense. Led by senior quarterback B.J. Daniels, the Bulls have eight returning starters on offense from last year, including three linemen. The challenge for the Cardinals will start up front on the line of scrimmage where they will attempt to contain the running game while putting pressure on Daniels without losing containment.
“They’re a physical group (offensive line) with some big guys,” noted Dunn. “They have a lot of experience and they play hard up front. B.J. Daniels runs a lot and makes things happen. We just have to stay in our rushing lanes and don’t give him any creases to run through. We just have to corral him.”
Daniels a Moving Target for Bulls’ Offense
Daniels is without question one of the most important players in the USF offense. During his career in Tampa, he has 39 starts with more than 7,800 yards passing, more than 1,900 yards rushing, 48 touchdowns through the air and another 24 touchdowns on the ground. His extensive experience combined with terrific athleticism and impressive speed makes him difficult to stop for any opposing defense.
“It’s very hard,” Dunn explained when asked about defending an athletic quarterback like Daniels. “We just have to understand that he has good feet. He’ll take off on you if he doesn’t see it and if he does see it, he has the arm to sling it 50 or 60 yards. We have to be on our p’s and q’s, lock in on what the coaches are telling us and go execute. We have to contain him. As long as we contain him, we feel like we have a great chance.”