CRAWFORD | After three rough quarters, Louisville defense roared - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | After three rough quarters, Louisville defense roared back to life

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — After Boston College scored its second touchdown just 16 minutes into its game against the University of Louisville football team on Saturday, there were some real signs of concern for the U of L defense.

The Cardinals had given up 48 points in just 39 minutes, dating back to the Florida State game. FSU and Boston College had rolled up 494 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 drives. The Eagles ran for 111 yards in just more than one quarter, nearly more than seven U of L opponents had managed in an entire game.

Lorenzo Mauldin, the emotional leader of the defense, was hurt and in sweats on the sideline. Other nagging injuries were hampering starters like Terrell Floyd.

At that point, I thought, and even Tweeted, Louisville was going to have to score a lot of points, because its defense looked like it was fading.

Turns out that report of its demise was a bit premature.

When things were going their worst for U of L's defense, it found some resolve and exerted its influence on the game once again.

After that first TD of the second quarter, the Cardinals' defense gave up only 55 rushing yards the rest of the game. And Gerrod Holliman wrecked the Boston College passing game.

His hat trick of interceptions lifted his NCAA-leading total to 13, just one shy of the NCAA record of 14 set by Washington All-American Al Worley. In 1968. He caught more Boston College passes in the game than any Eagles' receiver.

"I'm very well aware of that," Holliman told reporters of the NCAA record after the game at Boston College. "That's one of my goals, to at least tie that."

“He should've gotten that fourth one,” Petrino joked after U of L had pulled out a 38-19 win. “We're going to have to work on his hands a little bit. No, he just did a great job. He's got a good pass rush in front of him, but he's always in position. He plays the ball in the air and he makes great catches in the air. To have the type of year he's had is very special.”

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham turned up the heat on Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy after the Eagles' second score, and the blitzes did their job, even if the Eagles did hit a big play here and there.

Sheldon Rankins, a defensive lineman, grabbed his second interception of the year on the game's pivotal play, with BC threatening in the red zone. A massive blitz flushed Murphy, who panicked on fourth down and lofted a pass that was going nowhere.

The Cardinals recorded only two sacks, but they were important, and they managed a ton of pressure that affected what Boston College was trying to accomplish, especially in the run game. After giving up two long runs in the game's first 16 minutes, they didn't give up another one.

B.J. Dubose recorded eight tackles and DeAngelo Brown came through with seven.

Brown had a tackle behind the line, as did Burgess and Holliman. And Rankins came up big, of his three solo tackles, all were behind the line of scrimmage, and he was in on both U of L sacks.

A lot has been said about the U of L offense in that game, and deservedly so. But it was the re-emergence of the defense that may have been bigger news, because that unit had experienced a rough three quarters of football, and somehow steadied itself on the fly and stiffened to give U of L's offense a chance to get on track.

Even when the Cardinal offense failed to capitalize on good field position it provided, the defense managed to stabilize.

When the dust settled, U of L was still ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing defense, and remains No. 6 nationally in total defense.

And Boston College, ranked No. 12 in the nation in rushing, can attest to its toughness. Only Clemson held it to a lower per-carry average than the 3.9 yards it managed against U of L.

“That's one of the elite teams in our league,” Boston College head coach Steve Addazio said.

One thing Petrino said he has liked about his team all season is that it has used practice time productively. His team doesn't just practice, he said, it gets better. That's even true of a defense that was pretty good to start with.

“The way we practiced and the attitude we had all week in practice, our preparation, I thought showed a lot of character,” Petrino said. “We came out tonight and competed extremely hard. . . .  We just kept working at it and certainly made some great plays on defense. Holliman with the interceptions, the pressure on the quarterback and then we're able to get the ball in the end zone and finish the game.”

Just when it looked bleak, U of L's defense showed it isn't finished yet.

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