Defense Still With Something To Prove

- Inside Carolina
Posted Oct 4, 2005


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For the second time in as many weeks, North Carolina (2-2, 1-1 ACC) seeks to avenge one of its most disheartening losses from last season. The challenge should be even tougher than last weekend’s 31-17 win over Utah, as the Tar Heels travel to No. 23 Louisville (3-1, 0-1 Big East) on Saturday.

Louisville has won nine straight games at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, and has put up 60 or more points in its last three home contests.

Back on Sept. 25, 2004, the Cardinals shut out UNC in Kenan Stadium, 34-0.

“We have something to prove,” linebacker Tommy Richardson said.

Perhaps still of the mindset of a mid-major program one year removed from Conference USA, the Cardinals have a penchant for tattooing teams on the scoreboard.

“They're very much the same as last year with multiple personnel groups on offense,” John Bunting said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “We know they put a lot of players in the NFL, and it’s hard to replace them. But they have done an good job of that.”

Statistically, Louisville’s numbers are in large part better than or equal to Carolina’s. Of course, a big difference between the two teams lies in the quality of their respective opponents. The Tar Heels’ have faced No. 24 Georgia Tech, No. 14 Wisconsin, N.C. State and Utah, which have a current combined won-loss record of 12-5. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have beaten Kentucky, Oregon State, Florida Atlantic and lost to South Florida, all with a combined mark of 7-12.

Something has to give, because Louisville – ranked seventh nationally in total offense – is averaging 510.5 yards per game, while the Tar Heels are yielding 338.0.

Six-foot-three, 250-pound running back Michael Bush is coming off a 204-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance in Louisville’s 61-10 victory over FAU last Saturday.

“He’s an old-fashioned ‘clavicle-buster,’” Bunting said. “He’s going to try and bust you up. He’s big; but he’s not only tall, he’s thick. And he’s ‘straight line fast.’ When he hits a hole, he can take it to the ranch.”

In last year’s meeting, it was Carolina Panthers’ rookie running back Eric Shelton that did the most damage against the Tar Heels with 86 yards and three touchdowns. But Bush was also effective, with 82 rushing yards on 17 carries.

However, Carolina’s defense against the run has made incredible strides since then.

“They’re going to run the ball and we know that,” Richardson said. “But we’re prepared to stop the run. And, if they don’t know that, they’re going to find it out early.”

Cardinals’ quarterback Brian Brohm, who took over as the starter this year for Panthers’ rookie Stefan LeFors, got plenty of experience in blowouts of lesser teams in '04. So far in this season, he is completing 68.1 percent of his passes, accumulating 1,218 yards and six touchdowns.

“Brohm has game experience,” Bunting said. “He was one of the nation’s No. 1 quarterbacks coming out of high school.”


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