If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t recognize the Louisville Defense Sunday against Ohio.
Suddenly they were making plays in the backfield.
Suddenly they were stopping the run.
Suddenly they were seemingly everywhere on the football field.
Their Head Coach Charlie Strong would simply call it being ‘gap sound’. Whatever the case, it’s something that’s put Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford in a more cheerful mood these days.
“He [Ohio RB Beau Blankenship] had 1600 yards last year, and that was are number 1 thing was to stop the run,” Bedford noted. “Our guys did a good job, they played hard, they played fast and they got to the football.”
‘Getting to the football’ wasn’t exactly the easiest thing for the Cardinals defense last season. On average, they allowed 160 yards on the ground, putting them at 66th best in the Nation. It’s something that the Louisville Defensive players like Senior DT Roy Philon remembered. It’s something that they viewed as unacceptable and forced them to vow ‘to return to the Old Louisville Defense’.
So far, So good.
“The excitement, The challenge, having the great opportunity to play with as good of a offense asours [has been the difference]” Beford explained. “[The Offense] lifts us up on defense also. We know if something happens, they can get it back to us, so we don’t wanna let the offense down.”
The Louisville Defense has always spoken about taking a certain ‘pride’ in their work. It reflects their Head Coach Charlie Strong, who was a defensive mastermind at Florida. His first two years, it shown. The Louisville Defense finished both 2010 and 2011 ranked in the Top 15 in the Country in Overall Defense.
That was hardly the case in 2012.
Whether it was a result of talent or Vance Bedford playing it too ‘safe’ – which prompted Bedford to turn to a more aggressive style this year – it doesn’t matter now; what matters is what’s happening on the field in 2013.
“It feels pretty good,” DT Roy Philon said. “We worked really hard in camp. Coach [Clint] Hurtt really stressed ‘you gotta stop the run’ on all of the teams. If you don’t stop the run then your defensive core is not going to really be about anything…That’s what we really went out and tried to accomplish.”
Louisville certainly did go out and accomplish that. Whether it was Sophomore LB James Burgess leading the Louisville Defense in tackles, or Roy Philon being constantly in the face of Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton; they were dominate. The true feather in the cap for Vance Bedford was that hey held Ohio RB Beau Blankenship to 22 yards, making that the second lowest rushing total of his career. They held Ohio scoreless through 45 minutes of play. The lone score that was given up? It happened while their entire second string defense was on the field.
But you may have to look past the stat lines to see how impressive the Louisville Defense was. That’s because no stat line can amount for the type of ‘swagger’ the defense shown on Louisville. A certain level of confidence, fire, whatever it was, the Louisville Defense sent a message to the Ohio offense through their play: We’re gonna dominate you from start to finish.
“We’re really good right now, We’re really locked in on defense. We’re just trying to have the best defense in the Nation,” LB James Burgess.
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