LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If Louisville had any real hopes of building off of their 8-5 campaign from a season ago, they would have to take significant strides on the defensive side of the ball. Not only did the Cardinals have the 103rd ranked defense in 2019, but they actually averaged more points allowed (33.4) than points scored (33.1).
The defense had a good start to 2020 as they only surrendered 248 yards in a 35-21 season-opening win vs. Western Kentucky, but then collapsed the very next week as the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes accumulated 485 yards in a 47-34 loss.
Like much of last season, the Cardinals had trouble containing big plays when the Canes came to town last Saturday. Louisville had three plays on defense where egregious breakdowns in coverage led to Miami touchdowns, and that was the turning point in the game.
"That's 21 points right there and we lost by 13," head coach Scott Satterfield said Monday in his weekly press conference. "That was their big yardage plays and we have to get better at limiting those. We cannot just give up those big plays, the way that we were lined up and not doing what we were supposed to do."
Miami opened up the second half with a pair of one play, 75-yard drives then added a 47-yard strike down the middle of the field in the game's waning moments. While Satterfield was critical of other defensive aspects, such as their ability to get to the quarterback while rushing three, containing the explosive play is what drew the most criticism.
Some of Louisville's woes on the defensive side of the ball are going to have to be remedied in a hurry, as the No. 24 Cardinals (1-1, 0-1 ACC) are set to embark on their first road trip of the season when they travel to face Pitt this weekend.
The No. 21 Panthers' (2-0, 1-0 ACC) offense might not be their calling card, but they have more than capable playmakers. Quarterback Kenny Pickett threw for 3,098 yards and a 61.6% completion rate a season ago, their offensive line is led by preseason All-ACC center Jimmy Morrissey, and leading wide receiver Taysir Mack is set to return from injury.
"They do a really good job and they have a good scheme," Satterfield said. "Their offense fits well to what their defense does and how solid the defense is. That's a big reason why they have been successful there at Pittsburgh."
As lost as the defense looked against the Canes, Satterfield isn't prepared to let that one game define them - especially just two games into a young season. While there is obvious work to be done, the second year head coach still believes that the defense will turn a corner and be better than last year.
“We're getting better. We just have to continue to prove it in the game on a game-by-game basis,” he said. “We are continuing to grow and we are getting better and I think at the end of the season when we look back on it, this will be a better defense than last year. But we have to continue to improve that each and every week."
Kickoff against the Pitt Panthers is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26 at 12:00 p.m. on ABC.
(Photo of Mark Pope, Jack Fagot: Atlantic Coast Conference)
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