Sept. 26, 2012
Preston ~nbsp>Brown | Adrian ~nbsp>Bushell
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Heading into the fifth game of the season, the 19th-ranked University of Louisville football team is still trying to find itself on the defensive side of the football.
While it's not time to panic, the Cardinals know they have to get better on that side of the ball to be a great team. Louisville isn't giving up chunks of yardage, but just as well isn't playing the consistent and up-tempo defense they showcased in the first two seasons.
After four games, the Cardinals are only giving up 339.5 yards of offense and yielding 19.0 points per game and have limited two of their four opponents to 14 points or less. The issue, though, has come with the tendency to give up the big play.
"Mistakes have been the bad thing about our defense so far, giving up little mistakes that lead to big plays and touchdowns," linebacker Preston Brown said. "We have to cut down on our mistakes, and hopefully it should work."
The Cardinals are only giving up 91.8 yards on the ground, but did allow their first 100-yard rusher in the last 11 games to FIU. On the flip side, FIU was the only team to garner 100 yards on the ground against Louisville's defense this year, so the Cardinals certainly aren't being dominated in the trenches.
"It's the little stuff," said Brown. "It's not like we're overmatched, we're just having mental mistakes that lead to the big plays."
North Carolina had two touchdowns of 40 or more yards and FIU had a couple of long runs that have alarmed the coaching staff, but overall, the Cardinals are making little assignment mistakes.
The two statistics that show up that are a little startling are sacks and tackles for loss. Louisville, which has been one of the top teams in the nation in that category, has slipped to 117th in tackles for loss and 101st in sacks. Brown believes that the Cardinals have been victimized by schemes rather than bad play.
"We've been playing a lot of three-step teams," said Brown, who is fourth on the team in tackles with 16. "They've been getting the ball out hot. Linebackers are a part of that too. We blitz and we haven't got enough pressure either, so we all have together as a whole and get some sacks."
The Cardinals are familiar with Southern Mississippi after facing the Golden Eagles two years ago in the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg - a 31-28 Louisville win. The Cardinals struggled with the fast-paced attack, and Brown said he's seeing similarities in Southern Miss' offense despite having a new staff.
"They're basically running the same thing they did when we played them in the bowl game," said Brown. "They have the same playmakers - No. 1 (Tracy Lampley) and No. 7 (Desmond Johnson) - so they'll do the same type of stuff, try to get you in space and make you miss. We just have to swarm the ball and hopefully we can contain that."
Head coach Charlie Strong said on Monday in his weekly press conference that the Cardinals didn't have a good week of preparation for FIU, and he wanted to see a little different intensity in preparing for the Golden Eagles, and Brown agreed with his coach, but has seen a difference so far this week in the team's preparation.
"Practice was slow last week," Brown said. "We weren't really flying around. No one really had a lot of energy. You can see we're coming out with a lot more energy and fire. Everybody is hitting more. We're basically tackling now, so we're having a lot more fun."
If the Cardinals are going to move to 5-0 for the first time since 2006, Louisville must "pack its defense" this week on the road, as Strong is known for saying when his team takes to the road. If they can slow down the Golden Eagles, the Cardinals should continue their fast start, but they know it's going to be a difficult task against their former Conference USA rival.