The University of Louisville defense understood there was plenty of room for improvement following the season-opening loss to Alabama.
The Cardinals gave up over 500 yards of offense in the week one loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide, and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder just wanted to see improvement last week.
In the 31-7 win over Indiana State last weekend, VanGorder saw just that – an all-around solid defensive effort.
“We were hoping for a more focused effort last week,” VanGorder said. “I think we saw that improvement out of our guys last week despite some very difficult weather conditions. It was hard to start and stop a few times, but I like the way they responded.”
Playing in a driving rainstorm on Saturday night, the Cardinals had to withstand three weather delays of 2:33, and played the longest game in school history – finally leaving the field on Sunday morning at 12:35 a.m.
The weather, notwithstanding, the Cardinals had to defend a complex offense that just wanted to pound the football under the duress of wet field conditions.
“It was a learning experience with the weather and the conditions,” VanGorder said. It’s not something you practice for or prepare for, and overall it was a positive.”
“I think their style of offense was bothersome and we didn’t handle it well in those difficult conditions. The misdirection and formations caused us problems, but it was a learning experience for everyone involved.”
There were plenty of bright spots in the stellar defensive performance last weekend, one player that stood out was true freshman Jarrett Jackson, a 6-foot-6, 281-pound defensive end.
“I feel more comfortable and I’m getting adjusted to the defense,” Jackson said. “I feel like I’ve improved from the spring until now. I’m more comfortable being able to rush the quarterback and I’m just trying to continually improve.”
Another player who showed significant improvement from game one was sophomore cornerback Roday Burns who was making his first start at Louisville.
Not only did the Trinity High product return a punt 55 yards for the first score, he was a key component that limited the Indiana State to just 37 yards through the air.
“From game one to two, I thought Rodjay was a better player. That’s where we want to keep him going. As he gains confidence, not only through an ability standpoint, but in our scheme, you’ll see him improve through the year,” VanGorder said.
The Cardinals will get another offensive challenge this weekend from Western Kentucky’s quarterback Drew Eckels, who threw for 347 yards and three scores. VanGorder is very familiar with this week’s opponent, having worked with WKU’s head coach Mike Sanford at Notre Dame in 2015-16.
“They will bring in some different looks,” VanGorder said. “Mike has an amazing background. He’s a good coach. He grew up with a football coach as a father, and I respect him as an offensive football coach.”
VanGorder is going through a process with his defense, trying to make sure they get better each week. While the Cardinals did show improvement last week, the first-year defensive coordinator wants to continue to see that development.
“I like their focus this week,” VanGorder said. “I thought the Tuesday and Wednesday practices have been some of the best practices overall. Some of that is just getting used to the practice style. I feel good about where we are at heading into this weekend’s game.”