It was the type of performance that will keep the University of Louisville defense among the nation's leaders in a number of the NCAA statistical categories. Despite the Cardinals falling 23-21 at Virginia on Saturday afternoon, the continued stingy play of the defensive squad is a positive to take away from the disappointing loss.
“I thought our defense played hard and had some good stops,” said Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino.
With an offense struggling to find a rhythm, the Cardinals defense often came on the field with their backs already against the wall. Consider this: the Cavaliers average starting field position was at their own 46 yard line and seven of their 16 offensive series began on the U of L side of the field, including starting twice in the red zone.
There was big play after big play.
With his team down 20-7 to start the fourth quarter, senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin registered a sack and deflected a pass on successive plays to force a three and out, which set up an ensuing U of L scoring drive.
“On the sidelines we kept telling ourselves that we needed to go out and make big plays and get the ball back for the offense,” said Mauldin. “We made a couple mistakes, but we'll build off those mistakes. We just kept talking to each other to keep each other up throughout the entire game.”
Safety Gerod Holliman ended two potential Virginia scoring drives with an interception.
“We flew around, made a lot of plays, a lot of three and outs,” said Holliman.
“We played really well as a defense, but there is always room for improvement,” said Burgess. “We could have played a lot better and stopped them from scoring a couple times. Overall we flew to the ball, but we could have played better.”
The Cavalier offense had one sustained series in the contest – a 9 play, 69 yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter. With that lone exception, the Cardinals defense relented very little, giving up an average of only 14.7 yards per series.
“We feel pressure every time we go out there to make a play,” said Burgess. “We try to hold teams to zero points, so every time we take the field we feel like we have to stop them on every play. We always have the urge to stop every play, every possession.”
The Cardinals return to action on Saturday, September 20, when they visit Miami for an out of conference contest against Florida International.