Cardinal defense to face difficult task
As the Cardinals prepared for Saturday's game at Syracuse, defensive coordinator Mike Gillhamer knew that he had to get his unit ready to face an offense that has multiple weapons. In its 49-47 season opening triple overtime victory at North Carolina last weekend, Syracuse racked up 518 total yards, by using a balanced attack. The Orangemen threw for 288 yards, while rushing for an additional 230 yards. "They do a lot of things," explained Gillhamer. "They are real well coached…I knew those coaches from when I was coaching on the East Coast. They are scary on offense because they do so much and they do it well. They run a lot of formations and shifts, to try to get you confused and then they execute really well." R.J. Anderson (SU) Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni, who is in 13th season at the school, has numerous offensive weapons to choose from. The early indications are that they have a dangerous in triple threat in quarterback R.J. Anderson, running back Walter Reyes and receiver Johnnie Morant. Against North Carolina Anderson threw for 288 yards, Reyes rushed for an impressive 191 yards and Morant pulled in seven receptions for 160 yards. Anderson, who also provides a constant running threat, was impressive in the opener, completing 61% of his pass attempts, while throwing three touchdowns without an interception. "The quarterback is very, very athletic, so he's a real threat," continued Gillhamer. "He made a lot plays last week like Lorenzen made against us. He was able to make something happen by getting out of the pocket." Walter Reyes (SU) Add Walter Reyes to any backfield and it'll become an effective ground attack. Add to that four returning starters along an offensive line and you have a serious imposing task. Tack on a mobile quarterback and the concern quickly escalates for defensive coordinators. "You have to keep integrity in your rush lanes and you have to make sure that everything that you are doing has a contain," said Gillhamer of defending the Syracuse rush. "You have to hang on in coverage…when there is a jailbreak; they have to stay back there." Having the Louisville secondary staying home and paying attention to the big play receiver in Johnnie Morant, who averaged 22.9 per reception last weekend. With a 6'4, 230-pound frame, Morant is an easy target for Anderson. Josh Minkins (ITV) The Cardinals secondary was impressive in the season opening win, highlighted by redshirt freshman Gavin Smart and Josh Minkins interceptions. However, Gillhamer knows that while he avoids labeling his secondary as youthful, he is aware that the group will face a tougher task this weekend than they did in the win over Kentucky. "I haven't addressed anything about being a young secondary, because that's what we've got." Gillhamer said. "They have to be confident and know that we believe in them and that the team believes in them. This is a long season and they'll get tested." With such a balanced run-pass attack, Syracuse will also test the defensive line and linebackers, who also put in a good performance in the first game out. "We wanted to come out of that game with the feeling that we are a complete unit," continued Gillhamer. "We have so much work to do still. We made a lot of mistakes in that game, so we need to correct those. We are building a foundation." Even though on paper this game has the makings of another high-scoring affair, Louisville's defense is expecting to see nearly every type of formation that the Orangemen can throw at them. "If they surprise us, I'll be surprised, because they do everything," Gillhamer said of the Syracuse offense.