Louisville defeated Syracuse 26-6. It was ugly, at times it was hideous. It was the typical way that Louisville has grown accustomed to winning in its 5-1 start. Yet it was still a win, a comfortable win, on the road in a game in which the Cardinals were just a 2 ½ point favorite.

It was a spiritual cleansing in sorts. In that, I think each Louisville fan has now realized that Louisville isn’t going to just come out and run up points on teams. That magical switch isn’t going to suddenly switch. I don’t blame them for having that expectation. It’s easy to think that once you’ve seen a Bobby Petrino offense do the things a Bobby Petrino offense does. It’s easy to get spoiled, you become accustomed to it and disregard any other notion that says you shouldn’t expect it.

That’s okay, it’s also okay to accept what you’ve got.

What Louisville has is an elite defense. We can call them elite now because it’s what they’ve demonstrated each time they’ve took the field.

A defense that has been beautifully schemed by Todd Grantham. The guy that Louisville spurned away from Georgia for a higher price. He’s perhaps now making Bulldog fans wish they had another chance to make a counter offer. A defense that hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in 13 quarters of play. 13 quarters. That’s just over three games. It’s a statistic that warrants a double take.

“We’re fast, we’re physical,” Head Coach Bobby Petrino noted following the game. “We have a good understanding of what we’re doing. Guys don’t hesitate, they play extremely hard. They did a great job with communication tonight.”

Tonight they riddled the Syracuse offense. Masterfully stifling them to 49 rushing yards. Against the same rushing team that ranks in the Top 25 of rushing in the Country, averaging just over 220 yards per game. The same team that rushed for just over 130 yards against Notre Dame. Tonight they forced multiple turnovers for the third straight game along with two safeties.

It’s not what we expected but we’d be foolish to not appreciate it and truly witness how great it is. Ignoring the Louisville defense, would be like being disappointed with the Mona Lisa because it’s not what you envisioned.

They’ve got Gerod Holiman. The Junior Defensive Back who is quickly rising, quickly becoming one of the Nation’s best defensive player. He got another interception tonight, it seems to be a given now. He’s got seven interceptions so far in 2014, placing him well above as the National leader. He’s just three interceptions away from breaking the Louisville school record of 10. Now it seems breaking that record is only a matter of when not if.

“He did a great job breaking on the ball,” Petrino noted.

He’s quickly replaced the void left by first rounder Calvin Pryor and looks well on this way to making his name known in the NFL. It makes me ponder how long till Louisville is referred to as ‘Defensive Back U’?

They’ve got Brandon Radcliff. He’s posted the first back to back 100 yards rushing games for a Cardinal since Senorise Perry two years ago. Just two weeks ago he was fourth in the running back depth chart. Now he’s the answer to what ills the Cardinals.

“It’s been pretty amazing to see the work come together,” an elated Radcliff said after the game. “Come out here and see that it produces. It’s great to see every thing come together.”

When Louisville’s offense has looked like a train swirling out of control , he was there to save them. He was there again tonight. Midway through the third quarter struggling to take control of game? No worries, Radcliff will handle that. He’ll break tackles, he’ll laugh at you as he heads to the in-zone, all while being faster than you. He’ll finish the drive with a 14 yard touchdown run and give you a 19 to 6 lead, just like he did tonight. He’ll finish the game with 110 yards, two touchdowns on 23 carries.

“He hit the holes really hard. He hugs the walls, does a good job of pressing and then comes out of it with good speed. Tonight he broke a thought of tackles,” Petrino said. “When you break tackles it allows you to get the ball in the in-zone.

It’s not a finished product. Louisville needs to improve plenty of mishaps. They committed nine penalties for 75 yards. They can’t do that and expect to even be in the game next week in Death Valley.

They have an offensive line that continues to be unpredictable, they miss blocks and give up bad sacks that make you wonder if they’ve even got off the bus. But they are making improvements, ever so slightly. They gave Freshmen QB Reggie Bonnafon some time at critical junctions and he made plays. He connected with James Quick for an 18 yard pass and later connected with Matt Milton for a 45 yard pass, his longest of the season.

“They made some critical plays,” Petrino noted. “I thought the play to [Matt] Milton was huge. It basically put the game away with a great play for us.”

They’ll need more of that. In fact, they’ll have to make leaps and bounds to get where they want to go. But tonight they shown they we’re at least capable of it.

It’s not what anybody expected, but this is who Louisville is right now. Embrace it and attempt to enjoy the steady improvements that they appear to be making. Louisville has a defense that’ll at least keep them in any game they’ll play. For all of their inefficiencies, that’s at least worth taking a moment to savor.

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Chris Hatfield

Residing in Louisville, KY (via Bardstown, KY). I write things about Louisville Sports. Sometimes you'll like them. Follow me @_ChrisHatfield Email me at chatfield60@gmail.com

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