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September 5, 2012Louisville just kept snapping the ball. The offense kept moving. Defensive tackles Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph had their hands on their hips between plays.
It was only the first quarter, but they were tired.
The Cardinals' 15-play, 99-yard drive on their opening possession on Sunday knocked the defense back. It was surprising, defensive line coach David Turner said.
"I was thinking at some point we'd get them stopped," Turner said. "That's what was going through my mind. I didn't think they could do it. I didn't think they would do it. I kept saying at some point, we'd get them stopped."
All offseason, he had preached to his players about how important it was to force offenses to sustain long drives. A big play can mortally wound a defense, but prolonged series' were rare against Kentucky last year.
Turner wasn't the only one caught off guard as the Cardinals marched down the field.
"What's going on? What can we do to stop them?" junior defensive tackle Mister Cobble asked himself during the drive. "I felt like all I could really do was keep fighting."
There were lots of things that went wrong on that drive - and the next two. Louisville's offense drove 85 yards for a touchdown on its second drive and 93 yards for a touchdown on its third drive.
There were communication issues, which the defense has been working on in practice this week. When the Wildcat defense lined up before plays, the Cardinals would make changes that Kentucky didn't answer.
"We would go one way, and they would adjust and go the other," Cobble said. "It was little things we weren't expecting in the first game. We had a lot of film, but we didn't know what they were going to do exactly."
Turner also said he was partly to blame. The three starters on the defensive line all played about 50 snaps on Sunday, more than Turner said they should have been asked to do. He fell into a comfort zone, relying on Cobble, junior defensive tackle Donte Rumph and senior defensive end Collins Ukwu to carry the load.
Ukwu graded out as the best of the bunch, but there were plenty of issues to go around. Louisville's tailbacks combined for 213 yards on the ground, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
"I know we will play better," Turner said. "Our guys are disappointed. They know that's not them."
Turner will force himself to rotate other players in on the defensive line to keep the starters fresh this week.
The defensive line wasn't the only unit to struggle. The secondary was torched by Louisville quarter back Teddy Bridgewater, and the linebackers, who are responsible for making defensive calls before the snap on the field, bore much of the blame for the "communications breakdown" Turner talked about.
After giving up 466 yards on Sunday, the defense is just looking forward to a chance to recover quickly.
"If you're a prizefighter and you get knocked out, the worst thing that can happen is you get held out for a long time," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "We have work to do, but we're anxious to get back on the field to see and show ourselves that we're better than what we played.
"Now, we have to prove that. It's not going to happen because I say it's going to happen. We have to prove that down after down, play after play, game after game."