The ineptness of the defensive unit was a frequent target of critics of  Steve Kragthorpe’s coaching during his first season as University of Louisville. Fans were especially critical of the secondary, ineffective against the pass, and the defensive line, unable to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

Like U of L football teams have never been faced with those kind of challenges in the past. Not withstanding the incredible contributions of Elvis Dumervil , this has been familiar refrain over the years, as was indicated by Courier-Journal blogger Tom Heiser in a post following UofL’s 35-24 loss to Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl in January 2006:Former logo of the Toyota Gator Bowl

I’m sick and tired of watching good play ruined by the pathetic effort of the UofL defense. Week in, week out, game in, game out. As the game wears on and the pressure tightens, the line puts no pressure on the quarterback, and the secondary crumbles as receivers slip into open space again, again and again … Why does UofL continue to allow its defense to be coached by feckless dolts than cannot make adjustments … by athletes that cannot rise to occasion and make clutch plays … The offensive scheme proves that the team can compete with anyone.

That, of course, was a team coached by the sainted Bobby Petrino who, according to some, made few errors during his tenure. Depended on offense to overpower opponents, placed an inordinate amount of emphasis on offensive players in recruiting, often switching them to defensive roles with which they were unfamiliar.

Of course, an 11-1 won-lost record and an Orange Bowl victory in 2007 helped to erase all memories of those defensive deficiencies.

It must be said, however, that while Petrino may have never had great defensive units, his players almost always seemed to be lined up in the right positions – something that didn’t happen on far too many occasions during Kragthorpe’s first season.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.