The numbers looked gaudy and the highlight repeating on SportsCenter all night looked worse.
On the surface, it would appear Louisville RB Bilal Powell ran all over the Bearcats defense. At 24 carries for 215 yards, the assessment wouldn't be all wrong.
"It was just two plays," defensive lineman Derek Wolfe said. "We gave up two big plays."
Two extremely big plays, to be exact. However, Wolfe is correct.
Powell broke off an 85-yard run where he kept his balance and shook off what appeared to be a mundane 3-yard gain to bolt the length of the field for a score. He also took a quick hit up the middle 46 yards to break the Cardinals out of their own end early in the third quarter.
However, if you take away those two runs, the Cardinals ran 32 times for 97 yards. That's three yards a carry.
Unfortunately, you can't drop the best and worst performances like a golf handicap. Those big runs count. But Wolfe and company believe the will be fine entering a Big East season featuring some of the top running backs in the country.
"I give props to that kid, he didn't stop running," Wolfe said of Powell. "That was our fault because we didn't finish a play. We watched the film. That is why we have been working on that this week. When the play is away, especially, me, John (Hughes) and the backside guys on that play, we were running to the ball but we weren't running to the ball with a purpose."
Better to learn the lesson in a win than a loss. If ever there were a week where finishing plays will be at a premium, it will be against USF quarterback B.J. Daniels. He makes a living off of keeping dead plays alive.
Daniels rushed 16 times for 74 yards last year, but also kept play after play going with his legs as he threw for 208 yards.
"You got to keep him in the pocket, keep him contained," Wolfe said. "Keep him running side to side instead of north and south."
A major player in completing that task will be Walter Stewart. The sophomore spent much of this season lining up at defensive end, but while focused on stopping the run against
Not coincidentally, he enjoyed his best game of the year. Stewart lived in the
"It was a product of just being bounced around because the offense doesn't really know where I am at," Stewart said of his versatility between DE and LB. "It allowed for me to sneak into the back door and make some plays."
On Friday, he hopes to make more plays and return the rush defense numbers to where they belong.
"We are not rattled at all," Stewart said. "Stopping the run is what we hang our hats on. (Powell) got a few runs, but I don't think that is going to happen anymore for the rest of the year."