Louisville's defense is creating more opportunities for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals' high-powered offense to get on the field.
Seventh-ranked Louisville (3-0) enters Saturday's game against struggling Florida International (0-3) ranked fifth nationally in third-down defense, having allowed just 10 of 41 conversions (24%). That's a huge drop from a year ago when opponents converted 17 of 37 chances (46%).
The Cardinals completely shut down Kentucky on third down. The Wildcats were 0 for 13 Saturday, tying the second-best effort ever by a Louisville defense. Duke was 0 for 15 on third down against the Cardinals in 2002.
Louisville's proficiency on what defensive players call the ''money down'' could improve against the Panthers, who have made just 23% of their third-down chances.
''That's a big emphasis, to get the offense back on the field and keep the momentum going,'' Cardinals senior middle linebacker Preston Brown said of the third-down philosophy.