LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Three and out on Louisville's stirring introduction to the Atlantic Coast Conference, a 31-13 victory over Miami, highlighted by a dominant second-half performance.
1. The strength of the Louisville defense last season was the secondary, led by safeties Calvin Pryor (a first-round NFL Draft pick) and Hakeem Smith (a 12-year starter). They could cover and knock you into next week.
No, actually it was the defensive line. Marcus Smith (another first-round pick), Brandon Dunn and Roy Philon excelled at stuffing the running game.
We can argue about that all day, but I saw a different strength emerge for the Cardinals against the Hurricanes – the linebackers. They were effective – and they were everywhere
Keith Kelsey was a monster, bouncing from sideline to sideline, making five crackling hits. Credit Kelsey with a fumble recovery, too. Only a bad officiating call stopped Kelsey from taking that fumble back for a touchdown.
James Burgess Jr., who once orally committed to Miami and intended to follow his father by playing for the Hurricanes, delivered a string of punishing hits, including a tackle for a loss. Credit him with five tackles, too.
Don't forget Lorenzo Mauldin, who is no longer playing from a three-point stance, and Keith Brown, who also made several solid plays.
It's a talented and determined group – and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham utilized them well.
2. No DeVante Parker, everybody knew that is the way it was going to be for Louisville after Parker broke a bone in his left foot 10 days before the game.
No Michael Dyer, most suspected he was also going to be missing from the Cardinals' lineup, after he suffered a bruised thigh in a scrimmage 15 days before the game.
How much did Louisville miss its best receiver and a halfback who would have provided a nice change of pace to Dominique Brown, the Cards' power back?
Parker, quite a bit. Dyer, not as much.
Parker, remember, was a stud in the Russell Athletic Bowl, catching nine passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. Louisville didn't have anybody deliver numbers like those against the Hurricanes Monday night. The Cards' leading receiver was tight end Gerald Christian. He made six catches for 59 yards – and the sixth was the one that officially sent the crowd to the parking lots. It was a 10-yard touchdown pass with 1:43 left and put the Cards ahead, 31-13.
They could have also used Dyer, simply to give Brown a breather. Brown was a workhorse, carrying the ball a career high 33 times for 143 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Brown did have 33 carries. I checked. It only seemed as if he had 63.
3. I'm not sure if Charlie Strong was watching in Austin, Texas. I suspect that he was because Strong had a strong bond with his players. But Strong is also trying to get his Texas team ready to play without starting quarterback David Ash.
But I digress. If Strong was watching, he had reason to be impressed by several things:
More than 90 percent of the crowd delivered like a legitimate football crowd, filing into their seats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium at least 10 minutes before kickoff. That's something that Strong always wanted but rarely saw during his four seasons at Louisville.
And the turnout was robust, engaged and excited. Capacity at PJCS is listed at 55,000. Attendance for the Miami game was 55,428, a stadium record. The gathering included former U of L quarterback Chris Redman, former Cards (and Hurricanes) coach Howard Schnellenberger, former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford and 27 NFL scouts.