LOUISVILLE — There were l-o-n-g touchdown drives to start and finish the scoring.
Special teams came up big with a 97-yard kickoff return by Corvin Lamb.
But what really pushed Louisville over the top in Monday night's 31-13 season-opening win over Miami was defense.
"I thought our defensive staff had a great plan going in and really worked hard at it," Coach Bobby Petrino said. "They got our players to understand what we were going to see and what they were going to do with their stack sets. Which took a lot of work, but they had a great game plan that they played really fast.
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"I think that's the thing that I really noticed, was how fast our defense was playing. We tackled well and we got a lot of guys to the ball. I thought our crowd helped us a lot on third down. We were able to get after the quarterback and get off the field on third down."
Miami was 1 for 13 on third-down conversions. The Hurricanes were limited to 70 rushing yards, while freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya completed 17 of 29 passes for 174 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Louisville, switching to a 3-4 base defense this season, was missing seven starters from last year. That created doubt for some observers, but motivation for the Cardinals.
"There was a lot to prove just going out there because they said we lost a lot of people on defense," said linebacker Keith Kelsey, who had five solo tackles and a fumble recovery. "But we've just got to go out there with a chip on our shoulder every night just to prove everybody wrong."
Louisville, in addition to marking the return of Petrino as coach, was making its debut in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Petrino said he "probably was more nervous for this game than any game I've ever coached. I haven't slept a lot lately. But it was exciting once we got to the stadium, and then to watch our players go out and play the way they did."
Said linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin: "This is going to give us momentum. Because people said we couldn't do it. We're an underdog in the ACC — I guess we're supposed to be third in the ACC. We're going to prove a lot of people wrong. We've been doing it in the past and we don't plan on stopping now."
Free safety James Sample led U of L with six solo tackles, two assists and an interception. A key, he said, was keeping Miami running back Duke Johnson in check.
"We got after him," Sample said. "That was our game plan, to stop Duke Johnson, and that's what we did."
"I think we did a good job of being gap sound, and our guys were using their hands and getting off blocks," Petrino said. "I liked the way our linebackers played coming downhill, and our secondary was involved and got where they needed to be. So, really, it was a team effort."
Not that there weren't mistakes.
Most notable, the U of L offense lost fumbles on its 15- and 8-yard lines. But the defense stepped up and held Miami to three points off the turnovers.
"That was just extra time for the defense to go out there and make more plays," Kelsey said.
The offense did plenty of good things, too.
In his first start redshirt sophomore quarterback Will Gardner finished 20 of 28 for 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Dominique Brown ran 33 times for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Gardner directed a drive of 12 plays and 93 yards for U of L's first touchdown, and iced the game with a 14-play, 67-yard touchdown drive.
"I really liked the one early," Petrino said. "I thought that Will did a nice job of understanding what they were doing, made a couple of really, really good throws. We were able to get Gerald (Christian) involved and Eli (Rogers) did a really nice job on it.
"Then the one late, to be able to finish the game like that — we always talk to our offensive line about 'run to win.' ... It was great to do that. But also to do some play-action passes in there that Will executed perfectly."