LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Overlooked and buried under the avalanche of points and yards in Louisville's 41-39 win over Boston College Saturday afternoon were several key contributions from the Cardinals' defense.
Yes, the defense. It may sound counter intuitive since that unit gave up 563 yards of total offense, too many big plays-- much of it due to a secondary that was guilty of numerous blown coverages -- and allowed a sophomore quarterback who had thrown only seven passes all season to connect for three touchdowns.
All shortcomings that UofL coach Scott Satterfield must address before taking his team to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., next weekend to face No. 19/17 Wake Forest (5-0. 1-0).
Nevertheless, without two big individual plays and a gritty effort in the waning seconds, UofL's ACC losing streak would probably stand at 10 today instead of zero.
As it turned out, no play was bigger than the one that happened on BC's opening drive. The Eagles had marched from their own 21-yard line to a third-and-one at UofL four, making it look easy, and were on the verge of taking a 7-0 lead.
BC's bullish running back AJ Dillon got the first down and more, but sophomore linebacker Monty Montgomery stripped the ball, then recovered it to end the threat. Those seven points would have proven crucial later.
“That was huge," Satterfield said. "The bottom line, I don’t care how many yards teams get, just keep them out of the end zone, and we did on that particular drive."
Next it was Anthony Johnson's turn. UofL had gone into the game as one of just two teams in the nation without an interception (the other was Rice), but the redshirt sophomore ended the drought by picking off a Dennis Grosel pass at midfield and returning it 11 yards.
"That’s unbelievable, man. We’ve got to celebrate that," Satterfield said. "It was awesome to get that. Now we've got to try to get some more."
Then there was the job the Cards did containing Dillon, the top rusher in the ACC. He carried 22 times for 118 yards, a sub-par day for him, and 31 of those came on one play.
"I thought we did a great job hemming him up," Satterfield said. "That's the first time I've seen him in pads and he's a big human being. He's a tough guy to stop, he wears you down, but for the most part we made him get tough yards. We gang-tackled well today; guys got after it and were chasing the ball."
With the outcome of the game hanging in the balance, the defense saved the best to last. After Blanton Creque's 41-yard field goal with 1:02 left made it 41-39, BC took possession on its own 24, needing only to get within field goal range for a potential game-winner by Asron Bounerhi, who had kicked a 45-yard minutes earlier for a 39-38 lead.
UofL defensive coordinator Bryan Brown wasn't about to play it safe. He was aggressive with his calls, ordering several blitzes to keep pressure on the inexperienced Grosel. When time ran out, Grosel had completed just 1-of-5 passes and the Eagles had advanced only to their own 46 before a fourth down pass fell incomplete and the Cards could start celebrating.
"They hit some balls on us during the game where nobody was around, just open guys running free on busted coverages," Satterfield said. "We're obviously not a finished product, but when you look at the one kid (Grosel), he was 9-for-24 with a pick. So we had some wins with the defense."
Just enough of them as it turned out.
CUNNINGHAM IS NOW MICHLE
Quarterback Michle Cunningham, who used to be called Malik, explained the name change to reporters after the game. He said Malik is actually his middle name, but he had started using it instead of his actual first name, Michle, because people seemed to have trouble pronouncing the latter.
"Like every time I'd go to class they would call me 'Michelle' or 'Michael' or something like that," Cunningham said. "So I would just tell them to call me Malik. I am fine with (either). I go by both of them. It doesn't matter to me."
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at email@example.com.