Oct. 17, 2012
Brandon ~nbsp>Dunn | Roy ~nbsp>Philon | Hakeem ~nbsp>Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Defense has been a staple for the Cardinals during the first three seasons under head coach Charlie Strong. Louisville has played a pressure-packed in the past and it must regain that attacking mentality to continue the success.
The Cardinals were in the top 25 last year and certainly appear to be headed that way again this season after last week's performance. After questions surrounded the defensive unit through the first five weeks of the season, answers became clearer of what Louisville was capable of following the Pittsburgh victory.
Despite heading into the Pitt game in the lower tier of the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, the Cardinals sacked Tino Sunseri five times and forced him into a number of hurried throws.
Defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin and linebacker Keith Brown had big games for the Cardinals' defense, which stymied the Panthers running game and held Pitt to 360 yards of total offense.
Safety Hakeem Smith knows the Cardinals have to focus on the game plan and the task at hand, South Florida, which defeated the Cardinals in overtime in their last visit to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in 2010.
"We are trying to remained focus," Smith said. "We are taking it 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."
As Smith stated, the Cardinals will face a huge test on defense this week in four-year starting quarterback, B.J. Daniels. One of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, Daniels has completed 592-of-1,035 passes (57.2 percent) for 7,862 yards and 48 TDs (37 interceptions), while rushing for 1,911 yards and 24 TDs. Both his passing yards and passing touchdowns rank third in USF history, while his rushing yards rank fourth and his 24 rushing scores are tied for first all-time. Daniels has produced 9,773 yards of total offense, which ranks third in USF history and fifth in BIG EAST history.
"I think he is really a guy who can beat us on the edges," said defensive tackle Roy Philon. "He is someone we have to contain and contain him on the edge."
At 2-4 and 0-2 in the BIG EAST, the Bulls are in the same situation the Cardinals were last season when U of L was sitting with the same mark, and went on to win five of the next six games to earn a share of the BIG EAST title.
"They are a good football team," said Dunn. "They have 25 seniors. We give them the utmost respect. They are going to fight. We have to understand as a team that we can't give that to them. You can't look at their record. We know they are a good football team. Coach Strong tells us to respect this team and we are going to do that."
One thing that will help the Cardinals this week is a return home to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, where they are undefeated. There will be no airplanes and no bus rides. Even more comforting, the team will be in its home hotel for the first time in over a month.
"It feels good to be able to stay in our own hotel this week," said Dunn. "Everybody is comfortable because we don't have to travel. It's been a test for us. Coach always says to pack our defense. We have to win on the road to be good coming into this season and we took pride in that."
The Cardinals have to continue to take pride in being a good defensive football team, and they made huge strides last week against Pitt. However, USF provides another challenge with a senior-laden group, and while Strong always says his team must pack its defense on the road, the Cardinals must carry the same mentality on the shorter trek into `The Oven.'
"There is no added pressure," Philon said. "We have to take it one game at a time."