MORGANTOWN - Think what you will about the Louisville football team that comes to Mountaineer Field Saturday. If you choose to look at the fact that the Cardinals are but 4-4 and that they lost games to Florida International and Marshall, so be it.
Know this, though: Louisville can play defense.
In eight games this season, no team has scored more than three touchdowns against the Cardinals. Six of the eight have scored two or fewer.
Louisville ranks No. 12 in the country in total defense and No. 11 in points allowed. The Cardinals are equally adept at stopping the run and the pass.
For a West Virginia team that seems lately reduced to outscoring teams in order to win, that presents a challenge.
"They're an attacking defense, but they're sound. It's hard to move the ball on them,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday. "It always starts up front. They've got D-linemen that are physical and their linebackers are enormous and cover a lot of space.
"They're young. They play a lot of freshman on both offense and defense. But that's scary because the more you play freshmen the better they're going to get.''
That's been exactly the case for Louisville.
Through six games, coach Charlie Strong's team was 2-4 and had those embarrassing home losses to Florida International (24-17) and Marshall (17-13). Since then, however, the Cardinals handed Rutgers its first Big East loss and then dismantled the same Syracuse team that had just dismantled West Virginia, winning 27-10.
While Louisville's offense certainly has something to do with that - Strong switched offensive coordinators and quarterbacks during the season - the defense has remained a constant. Only two teams have gained more than 300 yards against the Cardinals. Five have been held below 100 yards rushing and none have passed for more than 255.
West Virginia averages 127 rushing and 355 passing, so something has to give.
"It's so tough. Just from watching them it's going to be hard to do,'' Strong said of containing WVU's offense when the teams meet at noon Sunday. "[WVU quarterback] Geno Smith is an unbelievable player and he does a great job with the tempo and managing the game. He's getting the ball to [Stedman] Bailey and [Tavon] Austin and they're making the catches and getting downfield.''
Holgorsen has never faced a Strong-coached defense. West Virginia's first-year head coach was in the Southwest the past decade and in lower-division football before that while Strong was making a name for himself at Notre Dame, South Carolina and mainly at Florida. Strong made four different stops in Gainesville, including as defensive coordinator for the seven years prior to getting the job at Louisville in 2010.