LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In the first half of the 2021 season, the defensive side of the football for Louisville was struggling. They surrendered a league-worst 449.3 yards per game through their first six games, as well as 298.8 passing yards per game - the sixth-highest mark in all of FBS.
One of the biggest complaints regarding the defense was their super-conservative approach. Defensive coordinator Bryan Brown, particularly in late game situations, would send just a three-man rush after the quarterback while dropping eight into coverage.
Against Boston College, Louisville tried a different approach. While the three-man rush did see some action, as did the standard four-man rush, the Cardinals opted for the opposite more often than not, loading the box and sending blitzers into the backfield with regularity.
For the most part, it worked. Louisville held BC to just 5-17 on third and fourth down, and just 266 total yards. It was their best defensive outing on the year against an FBS opponent, and Boston College's worst yardage output against a P5 team.
Going forward, head coach Scott Satterfield wants to continue to implement this defensive approach.
"We want to want to be able to put pressure on offenses ... you have to be able to make those quarterbacks be uncomfortable, because these quarterbacks in this league are pretty daggone good," Satterfield said Monday.
"If they sit back there long enough, they're gonna pick you apart. There's got to be times where you bring pressure, get them off his spot, make him have to make a decision earlier than he wants to make, and that's going to bode well for us defensively."
It also helps that, down the stretch, Louisville will not be facing nearly as prolific of offenses that they did in the first half of the season. Not only have the Cardinals already faced three offenses that rank in the top 16 in FBS, but two in the top five (Ole Miss, Virginia).
Over their final five games, the highest ranked offense that Louisville will face in terms of yardage will be against Duke (14th), but they will also face the 49th, 52nd, 76th and 117th ranked offenses.
While Louisville certainly has a downtick in offensive competition in the latter half of the season, their next opponent in NC State still present a worthy challenge on that side of the ball. Quarterback Devin Leary is one of the more efficient signal callers in the league, completing 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,844 yards, 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Just like against Boston College's Dennis Grosel, Satterfield wants to make Leary as uncomfortable inside the pocket as he can.
"You got to be able to mix it up on him," he said. "You can't just play one defense all day, he'll pick you apart. You got to bring pressure, you got to get in his face, you got to make him off."\
Of course, Satterfield acknowledges that the Cardinals also need to be disciplined when it comes to playing in coverage. NC State also will occasionally run tempo and RPO actions that Louisville will have to watch out for.
But, if they can replicate parts of their defensive game plan and execution from the victory over Boston College, Satterfield likes his chances.
"I think what we showed Saturday is and we're capable of doing, we just got to bring it another week," he said. "
Kickoff at NC State is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. EST.
(Photo via Rob Kinnan - USA TODAY Sports)
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