Louisville Defense Riding a Wave of Momentum, Motivation and Confidence – Sports Illustrated

Posted: September 12, 2020 at 3:54 am

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At this point in time, most people in the college football world know that Louisville's defense was not their strong suit during the 2019 season.

The offensive side of the ball was busy lighting up the scoreboard, but so was the defensive side of the ball for the other team at times. The Cardinals allowed 439.9 yards per game (102nd in FBS), and the team as a whole was actually allowing more points (33.4) than they were scoring (33.1).

But as the first season under head coach Scott Satterfield & defensive coordinator Bryan Brown progressed, the defense as a whole slowly became more comfortable with their settings.

Sure the back half of the regular season still had moments like the debacles against both Miami & Kentucky, but the defense's performances against both Virginia & NC State were some of their best outings over the course of the 2020 season.

This all culminated with Louisville's 38-28 win over Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl. While the Cards held the Bulldogs to around their scoring average (27.6) and it wasn't Louisville's lowest defensive scoring output, the on-field difference looked a lot different than when the season had started.

Instead of reacting to what was unfolding in front of them, the defense was playing more instinctually - and as a result a lot more efficiently.

"When you know what to do and you're going in the right direction, that means you can play a whole lot faster as opposed to thinking 'oh, what's the check?' or 'oh, what is this?'," DC Bryan Brown said in a teleconference Wednesday after practice.

As the program progressed into the offseason, the defense was motivated from a two-fold standpoint. They wanted to not only build off of their from better performances like against Mississippi State, Virginia & NC State; but also wanted redemption for the games in which they did not perform well like against Miami & Kentucky.

"Last year with the new coaching staff, we were all just learning and stepping into a new scheme," redshirt senior safety Isaiah Hayes said. "Coming into this season and this offseason. we most definitely made it a priority to work like we were going to be one of the best defenses in the nation. The chip on the shoulder was definitely there, and we're striving for perfection every single day."

The team was actually greatly assisted by the amount of bowl preparations they underwent. While they might have had eight practice taken from them due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the defense looked like a completely different unit during the seven practices they got in.

It's not just from an on-field perspective, either. Everyone on the defense has completely bought in to what the coaching staff is preaching, and they are always inquiring as to how they and their teammates can get better.

"They're asking questions - that's what you want. Last year they were just trying to find out. They were trying to learn on the fly," Brown said. "Now you know you're trying to get somewhere as a defense when they're asking questions and making suggestions."

As a result, the defensive is brimming with confidence heading into their season-opener against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. They have a better understanding of the defensive minutiae as well as when they should pull the trigger and take a chance to make a play.

"It's just a great coaching staff to be around," Hayes said. "They're giving us everything we need to build our confidence in our craft, our communication, our alignment and our adjustments."

Louisville is set to kickoff the season against the Hilltoppers at home on Saturday, Sept. 12 at 8:00pm on the ACC Network.

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Louisville Defense Riding a Wave of Momentum, Motivation and Confidence - Sports Illustrated

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September 12th, 2020 at 3:54 am

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