Oct. 31, 2012
INTERVIEWS: Hakeem ~nbsp>Smith | B.J. ~nbsp>Butler
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The University of Louisville football team's defense will be put to the test again on the ground when it faces a Temple squad that lives on the ability to run the football and, in recent weeks, the Cardinals have had their work cut out for them.
The Owls (3-4, 2-2 BIG EAST) have two talented running backs in Montel Harris, a transfer from Boston College, and Matt Brown. Their quarterback, Chris Coyer, is the team's second-leading rusher this season at 354 yards. Harris is the team's top rusher with 463 yards and four touchdowns. The Owls have run the football 296 times and thrown it 146 times.
"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."
The Cardinals have struggled in recent weeks trying to stop the run. Louisville is giving up an average of 205.6 yards per game on the ground. Southern Miss ran for 224 yards, South Florida added 195 and Cincinnati totaled 196 last time out.
"They like to run the ball all over the place," said sophomore linebacker Deiontrez Mount. "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."
The Cardinals have to focus on getting off the field on third down, which has been a point of emphasis by the coaching staff in recent weeks, and the players know that it has been a huge problem.
"I think what we have to do is have a better understanding of what they want to do to us," said Mount. "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."
The Cardinals are working toward history if they can find a way to win Saturday's game versus Temple. Louisville has the opportunity to go 9-0 overall, 4-0 in the BIG EAST, for the first time in school history, which is certainly something to play for, but the players are competing for a lot more and continue to focus on one game at a time.
"It's a thought in a couple of people's heads," said Smith of the chance to go 9-0 for the first time. "It's in the back of our minds. However, our focus is to just line up and go play."
The Cardinals jumped into the top 10 for the first time since 2007, and some the players are surprised at the team's rapid move in the polls.
"I got to say, I'm very shocked," said Mount. "We've had big things this year. We have to keep playing. It means a great deal. I was never part of a good team like this, such a great team doing great things."
If the Cardinals can take care of business at home for the sixth-straight game, Louisville can take the next step as a program and continue to build something special for the rest of the season.