LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Louisville football program might not have had very many positive takeaways on offense in their win over Eastern Kentucky, but it was a different story over on the other side of the ball.
Just five days after surrendering 43 points and 569 yards against Ole Miss down in Atlanta, Ga., the Cardinals' defensive effort was much more poised and efficient in their home opener. The Colonels were only able to compile three points thanks to a field goal and 235 yards, and while you expect that against an FCS opponent, the effort and execution was refreshing.
"I think we played very physical tonight. I think we executed way better than we did in the first game," cornerback Kei'Trel Clark said. "Tonight, I feel like we truly were confident when we came out and played well. Still, those three points that they put up on the board were still too much."
After surrendering 381 passing yards to Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, Clark says the secondary put an added emphasis on preventing downfield shots, and it seems to have worked. Despite going 21-for-32, EKU quarterback Parker McKinney only threw for 129 yards before getting pulled.
While they were still a bit shaky in the front seven at times, they did well against the run, as EKU only averaged 1.9 yards per carry in the first half. The total defensive effort resulted in just three of the Colonels' 12 drives ending in plus territory, and going 4-12 on 3rd down.
Safety duo Kenderick Duncan and Qwynnterrio Cole looked better in coverage, inside linebacker Monty Montgomery was much more disciplined, and defensive end Ashton Gillotte continued to look like a budding star. But, no star shone brighter against EKU than that of Clark's.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound defensive back not only snagged Louisville's first two interceptions on the season, but logged a pair of tackle for loss and tied with Cole for a team high six tackles. He was fast, surprisingly physical, and a menace all night long.
"That was manifestation from God," he said. "It's so crazy how powerful manifestation is when you truly believe in something. The excitement ran through me because it was just surreal. All the work that I've put in this offseason, as far as working on my hands because I know I dropped a lot of interceptions and not capitalizing on big plays."
And capitalize he did, as his two interceptions showcased his versatility in coverage. The first one came on a streak up the right sideline intended for Matt Wilcox, and Clark was at his hip the entire time in man coverage. The second one came vs. zone coverage, again intended for Wilcox, but Clark read McKinney's eyes like a book to jump the route with ease.
"I thought they would stop coming my way. But, he tried his luck, and got blessed," Clark quipped.
(Photo of Dezmond Tell, Parker McKinney, Ashton Gillotte: Cindy Rice Shelton)
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