CRAWFORD | With defense like this, Louisville can win championsh - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | With defense like this, Louisville can win championships

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The Louisville defense swarms Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, as it did all day in Saturday's 63-20 victory. (WDRB photo by Mike DeZarn) The Louisville defense swarms Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, as it did all day in Saturday's 63-20 victory. (WDRB photo by Mike DeZarn)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Lamar Jackson is so exciting that he makes the University of Louisville football team a draw. He can fill seats and national sports highlight shows.

Jackson can light up scoreboards and send Twitter trending.

But the defense we saw from Louisville in Saturday afternoon’s 63-20 win over No. 2-ranked Florida State -- it can win championships.

You have a great offense, you can win games. You add a great defense, you can win titles. You add Bobby Petrino calling plays and you get what happened to FSU on Saturday.

We had seen the Louisville offense over the first two games of the season. On Saturday, we saw the full ferocity of the defense.

We saw some of the best quarterback pressure a Cardinal defense has gotten on a top-level team in years. We saw tight, effective pass coverage. We saw the athleticism of Devonte Fields, with a sack and a tackle for loss, both for 12 yards.. We saw the big-play ability of Jaire Alexander. We saw a relentless James Hearns, with a sack and a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, along with a pass break-up.

We saw a unit that allowed only 10 first-half points take it up even another notch in the second half.

In the end, we saw the Cardinals completely silence an offense that features two Heisman Trophy candidates in the ESPN Heisman watch: No. 6 contender Deondre Francois and No. 11 Dalvin Cook.

Illustrations:

-- Louisville held Florida State without a third-down conversion in the first, third and fourth quarters. FSU was 2-13 on third down for the game, and didn’t have a conversion in the game’s final 35 minutes.

-- The Cardinals gave up only 18 yards in the third quarter, holding Florida State to negative-13 yards rushing.

-- Louisville pushed Florida State backwards by the length of a football field with five sacks for 47 yards and five other tackles for losses for 55. They hurried Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois five times.

And, just as a reminder, this was Florida State we’re talking about. They came in with the No. 15 passing offense in the country. They have Cook, who has run all over Louisville for two years. Didn’t matter. Louisville allowed Cook just 54 yards on 16 carries. His longest run was 14 yards. Most runs, he was met by three or four Cardinals.

“We worked really hard on setting edges, not letting him get outside, because he is so fast and such a big threat,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “We worked hard on running full speed to the ball and I think you show up a couple times, where he made the first guy miss, the second guy miss, but three and four were right there following. They just played with a lot of great effort and a lot of toughness and concentration.”

Louisville pummeled FSU redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois relentlessly. He dropped back to pass 23 times, was sacked five times and hurried five more.

“We’re pretty good on the defensive front and they do a good job utilizing their technique,” Petrino said. “They’re quick. We did a good job, I think, keeping guys fresh, and some of our quickness and agility and ability to move and angle really gave us an advantage and we were able to get in the backfield a few times and make negative plays. Anytime you’re creating negative plays, it really helps you putting them behind the sticks and making third down harder. So I was excited about how well they did.”

You know what else helps the defense? Being up 35-10. When Louisville is clicking offensively, it puts so much pressure on opposing offenses that opportunities are going to come for Cardinal defenders. That allowed Grantham to dial up blitzes with little worry. It’s easier to take chances when you’re way up.

Not that the defensive coordinator let anything go. He was still screaming at his players up 63-10. And they were responding.

U of L’s defense didn’t worry about the score. It kept attacking. Alexander pounced on a fumble. Chucky Williams intercepted a pass and returned it to set up a score. Josh Harvey-Clemons led the team with eight tackles. Stacy Thomas had seven. The secondary broke up four passes and Hearns got his hands on another.

In all, Florida State finished with just 284 yards, but -- and think about this -- 124 of those came in the fourth quarter after the starters left. Before that, FSU managed just 160 yards on 27 plays, (3.4 yards per play). U of L gave up 10 points after calling off the dogs. But the message was clear: When this defense is dialed in, it’s a problem, especially with the way the Louisville offense executes.

Jackson and the offense are, as you might expect, the talk of college football again after the blowout win. But if you’re looking for reason to think this team might just be more than a pretty stat sheet, take a hard look at the defensive talent.

It could well wind up the difference between really good, and being a champion.

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