Matchup Notebook: Louisville Defense vs. Syracuse Offense

Cardinals Need to Stop the Run in the League
The Cardinals have consistently been one of the best teams in the league and the nation over the last couple of years against the run. However, this season has been different as the Cardinals are 48th in the country, allowing 148.0 yards per game. Louisville has had its issues since starting league play in stopping the run. After yielding just 93 yards in the league opener against Pittsburgh, Louisville has given up an average of 216.0 yards on the ground in the last three games. Louisville gave up a season-high 255 yards rushing in the 45-17 victory over Temple. The 255 yards on the ground were the most by an opponent during the three-year reign of head coach Charlie Strong. It’s only the fifth time in 35 games that Louisville has allowed 200 or more yards on the ground.

“We are basically a man free (defense), so we are always going to bring a safety in the box and we are a single-gap team,” head coach Charlie Strong explained. “Any time that you are single-gap, everyone is responsible for a gap, so a lot of times when a ball seams us, we know who to look for or you know where the issue is. With the way the game started on Saturday (against Temple), there were a lot of guys that were overrunning the ball, running out of their gaps, and they were trying to make a play. I tell them all the time, listen, just take care of your responsibility and do your job. The nose guard is supposed to be in the A-gap — that is his gap. He just makes sure that the ball does not run into B-gap, which you are responsible for.”

True Freshman Continues Fast Start
Head coach Charlie Strong thinks freshman linebacker Keith Brown is going to be something special by the time he finishes his career at Louisville. Starting in place of the injured Daniel Brown, Keith Brown is making the most of his opportunity. He is third on the team in tackles with 50 and has 27 tackles in the last three games. He recorded eight tackles in the win over Temple and forced and recovered a fumble en route to earning BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week honors. In his first career start, Brown led the Cardinals in tackles with 12 and also had 0.5 tackles for loss in the win over Pittsburgh. Brown added six more tackles in the win over USF on Oct. 20 and added a career-best 13 in the win over Cincinnati on Oct. 26.

“Keith has improved and can still improve. He’s a young player that is still learning the game,” said Strong. “The key for him is how much he can process and how much you can feed him. He’s such an exceptional player and so talented that he does a lot of things that other guys can’t do. He can strike a blocker, get off and go make plays. He can make adjustments during the game and do some things that other backers can’t do.”

Smith Heading for 35th Straight Start
Junior safety Hakeem Smith is the leader of the defense since taking over as a starter in 2010. Smith, a two-time All-BIG EAST performer, started his 34th straight game at safety versus Temple on Nov. 3. He is fourth on the team with 49 tackles and one forced fumble after the first nine contests. He registered six tackles and recovered a fumble in the win over Temple last weekend. Last season, Smith was a first team All-BIG EAST honoree with 84 stops, which were second on the team. Smith has recorded double-digit tackle totals in five of the last 12 games and has seven games of 10 or more tackles in his career.

Pryor Having All-American Type Season
Sophomore Calvin Pryor is having an outstanding season for the Cardinals as one of the leaders in the secondary. Pryor leads the team with 69 tackles, two interceptions and four forced fumbles. Pryor has had eight or more tackles in six of the nine games this year, including three games where he totaled nine. He was credited with eight last Saturday in the win over Temple. As a true freshman last season, Pryor recorded 43 tackles and two interceptions. In two seasons, Pryor has registered 112 tackles and four interceptions.

What P. Brown Has Done for You!
Junior linebacker Preston Brown has settled in nicely at his middle linebacker position, especially over the last three games. Brown is second on the team in tackles with 68, including 26 solos. He registered 10 tackles in the win over Temple last Saturday. Brown has had three big games in a row, notching 40 tackles in three Cardinal wins. He totaled a career-best 17 tackles in the win over USF on Oct. 20 and came back with 13 more stops on Oct. 26 versus Cincinnati. As a sophomore last season, Brown was tied for second on the squad with 84 tackles.

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