LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Louisville's suddenly sagging run defense doesn't have a lot of time to get it together.
A week after allowing lowly Syracuse to roll up 207 yards in the ground on its way to a stunning 28-21 upset, the Cardinals (5-3, 1-2 Big East) will have to be more stout against Pittsburgh's superstar back LeSean McCoy.
The 25th-ranked Panthers (6-2, 2-1) knocked off Notre Dame 36-33 in four overtimes last week as the duo of McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling proved to be a powerful one-two punch. McCoy rushed for 169 yards and a TD on 32 carries, while 5-foot-7, 180-pound speed back Stephens-Howling rushed for 23 yards and his fifth TD of the season.
"They have the two-headed monster at tailback," Kragthorpe said. "We're going to have to do a much better job this week because we're going to see the same type of attack employed against us, a team that's going to line up and try to ram it down our throat."
Louisville is ranked ninth in the nation against the run, allowing just 91.6 yards per game. Yet the Cardinals have struggled to stop conference foes from moving the ball on the ground.
The two highest rushing totals against the Cardinals this season have come in their two Big East defeats. Louisville gave up 157 yards on the ground in a 26-21 loss to Connecticut on Sept. 26 before Curtis Brinkley and the Orange dominated the line of scrimmage on Saturday.
"That's the one thing we had not seen a lot of this year," coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "People have not run the football at us much, (but) the two teams that have have had success."
Expect the surging Panthers to throw plenty of McCoy at the Cardinals. The sophomore ranks sixth in the nation in rushing (125.5 yards per game) and has 15 touchdowns on the season.
"This team we're going to face is going to try to do the same thing, so we've got to play better in terms of knocking down the runs and tackling better than what we did (against Syracuse)," Kragthorpe said.
Orange senior Curtis Brinkley ran for 166 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries in Syracuse's home win. Brinkley ranks 15th nationally in rushing (112.4 ypg).
"We did a good job early of knocking down the run, we didn't do as good a job as we needed to later on in the game," Kragthorpe said. "We saw the hardball runs last week. We did a good job of knocking them down early, but we didn't tackle as well as we needed to in the second half and that was our Achilles' heel in the game."
The Cards had a tough time corralling Brinkley at the line of scrimmage last week, allowing Brinkley to make his way to the secondary. Kragthorpe said it was no coincidence that Louisville's leading tacklers were safeties Bobby Buchanan and Latarrius Thomas, who both collected six stops against the Orange.
"From a defensive standpoint, it doesn't matter who's making the tackles, we've got to get them on the ground," Kragthorpe said. "I don't care if it's a D-tackle, I don't care if it's a 5-technique, I don't care if it's a linebacker, I don't care if it's a free safety, just (him) on the ground."
The Cards own a seven-game winning streak against Pitt, including last year's 24-17 victory last year when McCoy fumbled at the Louisville 1 in the final minute as the Panthers went for the potential game-tying touchdown.
That win came on the heels of Louisville's loss to Connecticut. This year the Cards are looking for a similar turnaround.
"Losing to Syracuse was definitely not the outcome we wanted, but we'll bounce back from this, we'll learn from this and we'll be a better football team," quarterback Hunter Cantwell said.
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