Cardinal defense focusing on turnovers

The University of Louisville defense ranks among the best in most statistical categories, with one glaring exception. The Cardinals seven take-a-ways place them 64th among FBS programs.

As the University of Louisville prepares to begin conference play on Saturday afternoon at Temple, it will do so with a highly rated defense.

The 7th-ranked Cardinals lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 6.8 points a game, and are third in the NCAA in total defense, giving up just 220 yards an outing.

With a more experienced group, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford reinstalled a more aggressive defense during the off season and his squad has responded. Bedford wants his defense to get off the field quick and they are doing just that by allowing only 11 of 54 third down conversions, a stat that ranks second in the country.

While the national rankings are impressive, the defensive coaches continually preach improvement.

"Have you ever met a coach that thought he was where he was supposed to be," Bedford said following Wednesday's practice, adding that there is room for improvement in the turnover department. "I would love to see us strip the ball more. I would like to see that when the ball is thrown in the air, that we get the interception. We don't have that yet, so we're still working on those things."

Last season the Cardinals struggled to gain turnovers, finishing 42nd in the country with just 24 total takeaways. This season, through four games the U of L defense has secured seven turnovers - four fumble recoveries and three interceptions - which places the defense 64th in FBS.

"We have got to get some takeaways, it's wearing us out," Bedford said. "We've got to get the ball back. If you sack the quarterback, go for the strip. If you got two or three guys making a tackle, strip the football. Let's make some plays that way. The next thing is, if you can strip the football or get a sack fumble, you have a chance to score on defense."

Senior safety Calvin Pryor, who led the team with five forced fumbles a year ago and was second with two interceptions, sees an improved effort to get the ball back quickly for the offense.

"We're having more guys around the ball," he told Cardinal Authority. "We're trying to strip the ball and being more aggressive. Coaches have put emphasis on trying to create turnovers and as a defense that is what we are trying to do this whole season."

After watching film of each upcoming opponent, the defense sets goals for what they'd like to accomplish as a unit. Sacks, tackles for loss and turnovers are among their game day to-do list.

"We have goals that we set each week and try to accomplish those," said Pryor. "Sometimes we come up short, but for the past couple weeks we have been getting to our goals and being successful with it."

"The main thing is trying to get better every day and stay aggressive. We feel like we aren't good enough, so we keep working."

Getting the ball back to the offense and in Teddy Bridgewater's hands is the primary goal for the defense.

"The best defense is when we are on the sideline," said Bedford. "If we are on the sideline, that means things are going pretty good for us. I love being on the sideline, it's a beautiful thing."

Cardinal Authority Top Stories