I have come to praise the Louisville Cardinal defense, and its play in the opener against Notre Dame.
Especially Russ Yeast (7 tackles), Nick Okeke (7), Rodjay Burns (6), Khane Pass (6), C.J. Avery (6), P.J. Mbanasor (4), and Cornelius Sturghill (4). Dorian Etheridge recovered a fumble.
Kudos also to the D coaching staff, Bryan Brown, Cort Dennison, Shadon Brown, Dale Jones, and Mark Ivey.
Yes, against Notre Dame’s Top Ten Fighting Irish, Louisville gave up 35 points, and 423 yards of total offense.
Because perspective is required, those raw numbers don’t tell the whole story.
That same bunch -- with a few others who decided to continue their education elsewhere and matriculated at other institutions of higher learning -- let us be gentle and say, were somewhat more porous last season. OK, significantly more giving.
In U of L’s final seven games last season, from October until the final insult against UK, the Cards surrendered 66, 38, 56, 77, 54, 52, and 56.
That’s 57 points per game. Which is, I’ll do the arithmetic, three TDs + a point more than Monday evening’s 35. And only one of those foes was Top Ten, national champ Clemson.
Here’s how the Cards’ D distinguished itself last night.
It held the Fighting Irish to 3 & Out on ND’s 2d, 5th, and 6th drives of the 1st half. As well as on the visitor’s final possession of the game.
On Notre Dame’s 4th possession, the Cards swarming D posted a TFL on 3d & 2 at the Cardinal 36. Then stopped the Irish when they went for it on 4th.
Etheridge’s fumble recovery came on ND’s 7th possession before halftime.
After the break, when ND’s size and depth started to take its toll on the Cards, the visitors were still thwarted twice on 3d & short, the second time on a nifty Chandler Jones’ pass break up.
So, props to the Card stoppers.
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I’m still trying to figure out Brown and Dennison’s strategy and alignment, when, after a Rodjay Burns sack on 2d down, the visitors faced 3d &13 at Louisville’s 45.
Three widely space down linemen.
A second line of four defenders, somewhere between 10 to 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The last line of D another 5 to 8 yards back.
Whatever it was supposed to do, it didn’t. Tony Jones Jr. broke one off for 35 yards, and the Irish tied the game at 14 two plays later.
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Anyway, I was remiss in not mentioning the Cards’ defense more in my original game story. Now that omission has been corrected.
-- Seedy K