LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Last season, Louisville's defense was the star of the show. Despite the Cardinals finishing 4-7 in 2020, it largely was not due to the efforts of the defense. Two years removed from fielding one of the worst defenses in college football, Louisville held teams to 369.1 yards and 26.6 points per game, both of which were top-50 marks in all of FBS.
While they did face a tough task in week one against Ole Miss, Louisville's defense also didn't do themselves any favors. They made a multitude of errors against the Rebels, ranging from playing too soft of coverage, to taking wrong angles and missing tackles. That led to Ole Miss putting up 569 yards of total offense, and a 43-24 loss to open up the season.
"As a defense, just watching film and reflecting back on the game, we know that we made a lot of errors and mistakes as a group, that in order to win big football games, we don't need to make," safety Kenderick Duncan said Thursday.
Duncan admits that although Ole Miss' offense did present a hefty challenge due to the weapons at their disposal coupled with their high tempo, some players on that side of the ball had first game jitters, and were "probably not as ready as we wanted to be on snap number one". That caused their alignment to be off, directly leading to the missed tackles and bad angles that followed.
But with a short week of practice in store for them, they had little time to dwell on the loss. After their film sessions, they spent practice primarily taking the correct angles, playing full speed to the ball, and just being more connected with each other. It might not materialize over the course of a short week, but Duncan feels like they did take a step in the right direction.
The short week might not be overly beneficial from a physical standpoint, but it did help in other areas. Not only did it force them to put the Ole Miss game behind them faster, but they will get back on the field faster in an attempt to get the bad taste of losing out of their mouth, and helped them come together as a group.
"We're not going to just sit here and say we forgot about that feeling of losing, because that's not what we wanted to do," Duncan said. "But we still got that thought in our head of what happened, so now we got this extra edge to go play this Saturday, and just go all in this week."
Duncan also says that, in spite of a one-sided loss, it's important to keep up the level confidence they had heading into the season. With a big time home game against UCF coming up next weekend after the home-opener against EKU, the Cardinals still aren't lacking in that department.
"We know what we're capable of, and we know the things that we can do," he said. "We can let that game define us. We know the energy we bring, the swagger we bring. We know the things that we do need to fix in order to be ourselves. Just make sure we go out there with that swagger, that energy, and that mindset that we're still are the top dog."
Kickoff against Eastern Kentucky in Louisville's home opener is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 11 at 7:00 p.m.
(Photo of Monty Montgomery, Henry Parrish Jr., Greedy Vance: Brett Davis - USA TODAY Sports)
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