The University of Louisville defense rose to the occasion last week, limiting Western Kentucky to three second-half points in the Cardinals’ 20-17 win.
Heading into the beginning of Atlantic Coast Conference play, the Cardinals face a unique challenge in the form of Virginia’s versatile and balanced offensive attack.
The Cavaliers, in a 2-1 start, are averaging 220.7 yards on the ground and 225.3 yards through the air en route to averaging 34.3 points per game.
Coming off a 45-31 win over Ohio last weekend, Virginia dominated in both aspects of its offensive attack, totaling 173 rushing yards and completing 25-of-30 passes for 379 yards.
“We’ve got to be able to do a good job defensively,” head coach Bobby Petrino said. “The quarterback can throw the ball and run it. They run a more option game than they have in the past, so that’s something that’s new to them, and also, new for us to defend.”
Bryce Perkins, a junior college transfer, is second on the team in rushing with 239 yards and two scores and gives the Cavaliers a dynamic weapon at the quarterback position.
“It’s always hard trying to play against a running quarterback,” defensive tackle G.G. Robinson said. “It puts a whole new element to the game that you have to prepare for. We have to push the pocket because you know he’s going to try and get out and run.”
Having to replace seven starters off last season’s defense and losing Jonathan Greenard in the opener, the Cardinals have had to rely on a number of newcomers in Jared Goldwire and Jarrett Jackson on the defensive line.
“Jared is a very intelligent player and can play a lot of different positions,” defensive line coach L.D. Scott said. “He was out for the spring, so he’s catching up physically, but he’s made a lot of strides and continues to get better.”
Goldwire, a transfer from Fort Scott Community College, made the play of the game last weekend to give the Cardinals the opportunity to stay within striking distance.
With the Hilltoppers lining up for a 32-yard field goal to extend their 14-6 lead, Goldwire leapt and was able to get one of his big paws on the football to block the possible three points.
The Cardinals nearly scooped and scored, but took over at the WKU 31-yard line and went on to score to trim the lead to 14-13.
“Dez (Demji Dumervil-Jean) and J.J. (Jarrett Jackson) were on my side and they got great push on the interior and was able to get my hands up,” Goldwire said. “Once the ball is snapped, you have less than two seconds to get in there and penetrate. I wanted to take it back to the house, but we weren’t able to get it picked up.”
While the blocked field goal was a key play, the Cardinals continue to search for answers on how to create more turnovers. Through three games, the Cardinals have only forced two.
“We aren’t getting as many takeaways as we need to be getting,” defensive tackle G.G. Robinson said. “We have to run to the ball; we have to get to the football and just make plays.”
Playing their first true road game of the season, the Cardinals know they have to be focused.
“We just have to play hard,” Robinson said. “If you play hard, everything just falls into place. Don’t play nervous. Just play hard and everything will fall into place.”