Defense shows signs of improvement

If there was a bright spot in Louisville's 27-2 loss to archrival Kentucky on Sunday it was, without a doubt, the Cardinals' defense.

UofL's D, which was much-maligned and at times matador-like last season, showed signs of major improvement.

While the Cards' offense was held to its lowest point total in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium history, UofL's defense sent statisticians scouring the history books too.

The Cardinals limited UK to 210 yards of total offense and just 63 on the ground. It was the fewest total yards allowed by the Cards since October 2005 and the fewest rushing yards allowed since September 2000.

Ron English's defense was solid against

"I thought our defense played great," UofL center Eric Wood said. "They gave us a lot of opportunities. We put them in a lot of bad opportunities and they did well with it."

That certainly wasn't the case last year when the Cards allowed 31.4 points per game and ranked 115th (out of 119 teams nationally) in pass efficiency defense and 84th in total defense. Those low rankings led to the dismissal of defensive coordinator Mike Cassity, who was replaced by Ron English during the off-season.

This preseason many players talked about how English was bringing a new attitude to the UofL D and Sunday the Cards finally got a chance to show it.

UofL held a UK team that averaged 36.5 points last season (although the Cats had a new quarterback and several new receivers) to just one offensive touchdown - a 7-yard run by Tony Dixon. And even that was set up by the Wildcats' defense, not their offense.

"You have to give Louisville's defensive front credit," UK coach Rich Brooks said. "They were very physical and we did not run the ball very well. We did not move the ball as well as we have to."

The proof was in the stats. UofL had three more first downs (16 to 13) than UK and the Wildcats had more first downs by penalty than rushing (five to three).

"I thought we played well on defense today, they gave us a lot of chances," Kragthorpe said. "I was proud of the way our young linebackers played today. I thought they stepped up and played extremely well."

Included among those was true freshman Dexter Heyman, who started the game at strongside linebacker. He recorded two tackles in his first game.

"Dexter did some good today for his first collegiate action," Kragthorpe said. "He was very strong at the point of attack and knocked down the run. He got in on some third and long situations and was able to put some pressure on (UK quarterback Mike) Hartline."

Wood knows that if UofL's defense continues to mature and put pressure on opposing offenses, the Cards' offense will catch up too, and eventually make things hard on their foes.

"If they keep that up we will win some ball games this year," Wood said.

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