The University of Louisville football team faces a stiff challenge this weekend, when it will travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass. to take on Boston College for a road clash with an Atlantic Coast Conference foe.
Having now moved passed their 42-31 loss to No. 2 Florida State last Thursday, the Cardinals (6-3, 4-3 ACC) are gearing up for a battle with an Eagles team that is much improved since the hiring of head coach Steve Addazio two seasons ago. With wins over USC and North Carolina State under their belt in 2014, the Eagles (6-3, 3-2 ACC) picked up a two-point win on the road at Virginia Tech last Saturday.
In full-on preparation mode, Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and junior defensive back Jermaine Reve took time to speak with the media after Wednesday evening's practice. The pair discussed fielded questions on a number of topics, highlighting their respect for the Eagles along the way.
The meeting, which will mark the seventh between the schools, is slated for a 7:15 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, with an ESPN2 broadcast set. The series between the Cards and Eagles is tied 3-3 heading into the weekend.
With the tough loss to the defending national champions now in the rear view mirror, the Cardinals are fully focused on their impending trip to Chestnut Hill. Despite surrendering a season-high for yards (574) and points (42) to the Seminoles, the Cardinals haven't been shaken, and are fully aware of what it takes to keep it from happening again.
"We (can) keep that from carrying on, it's just motivation," defensive back Jermaine Reve said Wednesday. "We've seen how well we can play. We've seen how good we can be in one half, and we've seen ourselves not play up to our potential in the second half."
Rather than harping on the negative, Reve and the rest of the Cardinals defense, which ranks sixth in the country in terms of total defense, are using the experience as motivation and an opportunity to learn.
"It all comes from dedication. So it's a testament for our defense, to come out and respond and show that we really are the best defense (in the nation.)"
The head of the unit, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham echoed that sentiment, stating that the team must be able to learn, but move forward.
"Getting to where we want to go, you have to go through the tough times and you have to be able to handle that and move on," Grantham said.
"It's another week this week, we have a very talented team we are going to face that gives you some challenges with what they do offensively. We understood that we have to turn our focus to them and get ready to play a team that is on a roll right now."
These Eagles Fly on the Ground
Boston College presents a new challenge for the Cardinals this week; a team heavily predicated on running the football. Averaging 274.9 yards per game on the ground this season, the Eagles are the nation's No. 9 rushing offense. What the team is able to do on the ground is responsible for the bulk of 406.6 offensive yards they post per week.
"You have to make sure you all are on the same page, communication is important," Grantham said of preparing for a physical, run-first team like Boston College.
"You have to be physical up front in the run game, you have to set edges, you have to understand your gap fits and where your help is inside, outside those kind of things."
Lucky for the Cardinals, they've been stout against the run through their nine contests this season. Ranking third in the nation in rushing defense, the Cards are allowing opponents just 78.7 yards per game, and have allowed only three rushing scores all season.
What sets the Eagles apart, though, is their ability to run the ball from the quarterback position. Graduate quarterback, and former Florida Gator, Tyler Murphy is the Eagles' leading rusher in 2014, having racked up 965 yards and nine scores on the ground, all while averaging more than seven yards per rush.
"When the quarterback is a runner, it becomes truly 11-on-11 and if you don't fit it right you can create a seam in your defense," Grantham said. "That is how they have been getting those long runs with the quarterback."
A focus for the Cardinals in their preparation this week has been preventing the big play, which can come naturally to a team that can successfully run the ball.
"One of the main challenges is just keeping your eyes on your man," Reve said of facing a run-first offense.
"If you don't keep your eyes on your man, you could give up a big play. Teams like that, that run the ball every play, they can play-action out of nowhere for a big play. So it's our responsibility to keep our eyes on our responsibility."
Play-Making Secondary Wants Everyone to Feel the Love
Through nine games, it's become quickly apparent that the Cardinals possess one of the most dangerous secondaries in all of college football.
With 18 interceptions in 2014, only Mississippi has picked off opposing quarterbacks as many times as Louisville. Outside of taking the ball away, the secondary has made its hay being solid on a down-to-down basis. The Cards rank sixth in team passing efficiency defense, and have allowed 201.9 passing yards per game.
With safety Gerod Holliman's nation-leading ten interceptions, and the three a piece that linebacker James Burgess and safety James Sample have chipped in, it'd be easy for the Cardinals to get greedy. But as Reve stated Wednesday, that's not the case.
"We're kind of chatty and play around with each other about it, but that's not our main priority," Reve said. "Our main priority is to do your job in this defense. If everyone does their job, we all look good. That's something that we all care about. We want everyone to look good."
"We just motivate each other. We all want to look good on defense. We play for each other, and that's how we do it."