U of L defense still 'needs to play better'

There's been plenty of chatter in recent weeks about the University of Louisville's effort on defense this season. The Cardinals are 5-0 and when you look at the defensive numbers are actually not playing bad on that side of the ball. See what the defense says about its performance.

The University of Louisville football coaches and players agree the defense hasn't played up to expectations so far this season.

The Cardinals are 5-0 but haven't played their best since the second half of the North Carolina game, hanging on to beat the Tar Heels before going on the road to edge Florida International and Southern Mississippi.

"It just seems like we're in one of those ruts that is something bad can happen, it will happen," linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary said, noting poor weather conditions, missed tackles and injuries in recent weeks.

But a closer look at the U of L defense and the Cardinals are statistically performing even better than last season. The Cardinals allowed 20.1 points a game last season and are currently ranked No. 27 in the country, allowing 18.6 a game.

"Overall as a football team we just have to improve," U of L coach Charlie Strong said. "I told our defense, what's happening around here is that we've spoiled people because we've played good defense (for two seasons). Now, all of a sudden they don't think we can play. But we've been able to play well enough."

The Cardinals next game is Saturday at 11 a.m. on the road against Pittsburgh in the Big East Conference opener.

U of L is ranked No. 24 in overall defense, allowing 321.4 yards a game. The Cardinals are ranked No. 34 in passing defense (203.2) and No. 35 in rushing defense (118.2) on the season.

Strong also noted the defense got "off the field on the final drive," against Southern Miss and also North Carolina.

"We stopped them both," Strong said. "We've played well enough on defense. Now we just have to improve more."

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said it's been "the little things" that have cost the defense from turning in solid efforts each week. He said the team worked on tackling and fundamentals during the open week.

"We just have to do the little things better," Bedford said. "We really haven't had very many missed assignments. We probably missed three tackles (against Southern Miss) and two plays accounted for 95 yards.

"We work hard on tackling every day and hope to continue to improve."

Veteran linebacker Preston Brown said even with the numbers looking better the defense feels "average and like we've done nothing really special."

"We're just not having the season we felt we should be having," Brown said. "It will be third-and-five and we will have a missed tackle, keeping the drive going. It's just the little things that add up.

"We know we have to play better."

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