Stopping the run was the mantra of the University of Louisville football team's defensive staff for the entire fall camp. Last season, opposing running backs victimized the Cardinals on the ground, as UofL saw six different running backs reach the century mark.
Louisville gave up an average of 148.0 yards per game last season and allowed 4.3 yards a carry, so focusing on the run was important to an improved defense this season.
"The number one thing we stressed in camp was to stop the run," defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said after Wednesday's practice. "The guys did a good job. They played hard. They played fast and they got to the football. "
Sophomore linebacker James Burgess also stressed how much emphasis there was on stopping the run and Ohio's potent rushing attack.
"We took a lot of pride in stopping the run," Burgess said. "We talked about it all week in practice. (Beau) Blankenship was a really good back. He rushed for 1,600 yards last year and we just focused on stopping the run."
If the opener was any indication, the Cardinals will be better at stopping the run. Facing a running back in Beau Blankenship who rushed for over 1,600 yards, the defense stepped up and put the clamps on him, limiting him to 22 yards on 12 carries in Louisville's 49-7 thumping of the Bobcats.
"It feels pretty good to stop the run like that," Roy Philon said. "We worked really hard in camp. Coach (Clint) Hurtt stressed that we had to stop the run. If you don't stop the run, your defense won't be about anything. We tried to go out and stop the run."
Despite playing as well as they did defensively, Bedford did see some deficiencies on his defense. Last season, big plays hurt the Cardinals at times, and the fourth-year defensive coordinator saw the same problems creep into the Ohio game.
"Communication is something we need to do better," Bedford said. "We gave up three big plays in the pass game because of a lack of communication. We need to talk more and be on the same page. We need to execute so we don't give up big plays. That's how you lose ball games, giving up chunk yardage."
Despite giving up some big plays, the Cardinals limited the Bobcats to 81 yards on the ground and 273 yards of total offense in the dominating win.
"I saw a lot of gang tackling," Bedford said. "When you have a lot of gang tackling, you see some good hits. Those guys were tired of hitting each other for the last three weeks, so it was good to hit somebody else. You saw a lot of enthusiasm on defense, guys flying around wanting to him someone and they did."
Louisville pitched a first-half shutout on Sunday with an aggressive style of defense that Bedford talked about all fall. He wanted to be more aggressive and the Cardinals played that way on Sunday afternoon.
The Cardinals will face another running team in Eastern Kentucky on Saturday at noon and the focus remains on keeping teams from running the ball. If the Cardinals can stop the run like they did last week against Ohio, they will reach one of their goals: not allowing a 100-yard rusher, which hurt them a year ago.