While the offense still made some big plays, including a Doug Beaumont reverse for a touchdown, the defense put up more of a fight during Louisville's second scrimmage, picking off two passes and recovering a fumble in the red zone.
After the two hour scrimmage, Louisville head coach Charlie Strong sounded pleased with the progress his defense made this week.
"It's important for guys to be competitive and go out there and make plays," Strong said. "After the scrimmage we still have a lot of work to do. We had turnovers on offense and need to stop giving up big plays on defense. But overall it was good to get in that number of plays and watch our guys work."
Senior corner Johnny Patrick and freshman safety Champ Lee both recorded interceptions deep in their territory, while defensive linemen Patrick Grant and Malcolm Tatum and linebacker Antwan Canady recorded sacks. Safety Hakeem Smith also had a solid scrimmage, deflecting two passes around the goal line.
Brandon Heath, a senior linebacker, said the defense came out with more energy intent on showing better than they had in the first scrimmage last week.
"Last Saturday they just came out and whipped us," Heath said. "This time we just came out, had great effort and ran to the ball. We know as a defense we have to play with a lot of energy. We had the most energy today and proved we can compete with the offense."
The offense made several big plays. Senior quarterback Justin Burke scored on an option run from the 15, and made another big gain on a running play to move the offense into scoring position before throwing an interception to Patrick.
That was the story for the offense on a cold, rainy morning – turnovers. Adam Froman moved the offense into scoring position, but his pass went through Andrell Smith's hands right to safety Champ Lee, who returned the interception to midfield. Nate Nord dropped a sure touchdown the play before. Running back Eugene Sowell also lost a fumble at the five.
"We threw an interception that our defense ran back, we fumbled a quarterback-center exchange and then we fumbled another one," Strong said. "So we had three turnovers in the red zone that we can't have."
Towards the end of the scrimmage, Louisville worked on their red zone offense. Beaumont scored twice, once on a reverse, the other on an eight yard pass from Froman. Froman threw two touchdown passes. Besides the one to Beaumont, Froman also connected with tight end Pete Nochta for a score. Justin Burke lobbed a touchdown pass over the defense to Ratcliff in the corner of the end zone for a five yard touchdown. Freshman running back Jeremy Wright also had a short touchdown run.
Now with only two more weeks of practice before the spring game April 16, Strong wants to see continued improvement from his team.
"Today was [practice] No. 7 and we still have eight more [practices] to go," Strong said. "We're just looking to improve. Last week the offense dominated. This week it probably was even. Today it was more competitive because the defense is more comfortable with what they're doing. The offense didn't dominate the way they should have."
SCRIMMAGE NOTEBOOKThe first team defense started the scrimmage with a determined look. During one early series, defensive tackle Greg Scruggs stuffed the run on first down, linebacker Dexter Heyman disrupted an option play on second down and safety Shenard Holton delivered a jarring hit on tight end Cameron Graham to break up a pass on third.
The best run of the day came from Bilal Powell, who ripped off a 40 yard gain around right end with the offense pinned at the one. After that big run, the defense tightened, though Froman had a 40 yard completion to Scott Radcliff down the sideline and Powell ripped off another 15 yard run.
Defensive end Patrick Grant appears to have bulked up during the off-season and had a solid scrimmage, recording a sack and a tackle for loss when he took down Jeremy Wright behind the line of scrimmage with the offense at the goal line.
Despite the inclement weather conditions, Chris Philpott kicked well during Saturday's scrimmage, making his extra points and connecting on field goals from 32 and 37 yards.
Charlie Strong said he expects quarterback Luke Woodley to return to Louisville this summer. Woodley enrolled midsemester but recently left school to return home.
"He will be back with the rest of the freshman in June," Strong said.