Louisville gave up 39 points and 520 yards of offense Thursday night in Raleigh. The Cardinals allowed the Wolfpack 7.3 yards per play.
Thursday night's Top 25 showdown with NC State was an all-systems breakdown for the Louisville defense:
- The Wolfpack rushed 39 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
- Ryan Finley passed for 367 yards and a touchdown with a 174.6 passer rating.
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino made it clear that things have to improve on Louisville's defense - and soon.
“I didn’t think we played well at all defensively," Petrino said bluntly. "I didn’t think we tackled well. I didn’t think we played assignment football."
That's a major issue for the Cardinals. It's an even bigger because it fits with a trend with this Louisville defense. This wasn't just a one-game thing.
In Louisville's first three games against Power-5 foes, the Cardinals gave up 36.7 points per game (75th in the nation).
In this one? 39.
In Louisville's first three games against Power-5 foes, UofL was ranked 68th in the nation by allowing 6.17 yards per play. Thursday night? 7.3.
So what's the issue? A number of issues. The corners don't make plays with the ball in the air and the middle of the defense allowed too many runs against NC State, but the biggest issue might be the lack of sufficient pressure on the quarterback.
"They did a good job of throwing the deep ball and making plays," Petrino said. "We didn't do a good job of pressuring the quarterback, we couldn't get pressure on the quarterback and we panicked with the ball in the air. That's something hard for me to see because it is something we work extremely hard on every single day. Their quarterback made some good throws and their receivers went up and made some good catches."
Petrino didn't just criticize the defense, of course, he also said Louisville must be more consistent on offense, sustaining drives and running the ball more effectively.
But the more pressing question is 'How Louisville's defense can improve?' Louisville's next real test will come in two weeks when the Cardinals travel to Florida State.