Matchup Notebook: Louisville Defense vs. Temple Offense

Video Interviews: Hakeem Smith | B.J. Butler

Owls Look to the Ground More Than the Air
Entering Saturday’s matchup (Noon ET, ABC) at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium against 10th-ranked Louisville, the Temple offense leans heavily on its running game to move the football. Led by senior tailback Montel Harris (4.4 yards per carry, 77.2 yards rushing per game), the Owls rush for an average of more than 161 yards per game while passing for only 132 yards per outing. Having thrown for more than 200 yards only once under the guidance of second year head coach Steve Addazio, it seems clear what Temple’s primary goal is on offense.

“They like to run the ball all over the place,” sophomore defensive Deiontrez Mount said of the Owls’ offense. “They don’t really have one set run. They’re all over the place, so it’s going to be pretty tough to prepare for those guys. They’re a really good team.”

Playing Strong Important to Stopping Temple Offense
In order to successfully defend the Owls’ rushing attack, Louisville will be challenged physically by Temple. The Owls have rushed for more than 200 yards three times this season, including a season-high 301 yards in the season-opening win over Villanova. Conversely, the Cardinals have allowed their opponents to rush for at least 196 yards in three of the last four games. With an increased emphasis on its rushing defense this week, Louisville knows what is needed to have success against Temple.

“We know we have to be physical,” said junior safety Hakeem Smith. “We know they are going to line up on the ball and run it and we just have to be physical. They barely pass the ball. They mostly run the ball, so we have to have our run fits in order. Everybody has to execute on defense.”

Third Down Stops Begin with Better Understanding
One stat that needs to improve over the final four games of the season for the Cardinals’ defense is their third down efficiency. Entering Saturday’s game, opponents have converted on 45 of 103 (44 percent) but that percentage did drop last week as Cincinnati finished just 5 of 15 in Louisville’s 34-31 win. According to Louisville players, success defensively on third downs begins with having the right approach to what the offense is trying to do.

“I think what we have to do is have a better understanding of what they want to do to us,” said Mount of the Cardinals’ defensive approach on third down. “Whether a team is trying to throw to the sticks or run screens, we have to be able to recognize that as a defense – have more awareness on who you are and what your role is on the field.”

Strength Program Helps Cardinals Be Better in November
In each of head coach Charlie Strong’s first two campaigns in Louisville, the Cardinals improved throughout the season playing arguably their best football in the month of November. With an 8-0 record in hand in year three, expectations are high entering this November because of Louisville’s tendency to improve deeper into the schedule. Strong gives much of the credit for that trend to Pat Moorer and his strength and conditioning staff.

“A lot of it is attributed to our strength staff and what they do,” said head coach Charlie Strong. “You get to the last part of the season and it is all about your strength and conditioning. It is all about just being physical and guys being able to maintain their strength as you continue these games and we still lift. They still have our guys lift throughout the season, which is really good because now you get into these last four games and that is what it is going to come down to is the conditioning of your football team.”

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