LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -Steve Kragthorpe doesn't have to look at the statistics to figure out Louisville's defense is thriving under new coordinator Ron English.
A quick glimpse at the game tape - and the sea of Louisville jerseys flying at the ball - is all the evidence the head coach needs to figure out the Cardinals (1-1) are no longer the pushovers they were a season ago.
``The thing I'm seeing is not just one guy making the big hit, but I'm seeing gang tackling and a lot more red jerseys around football,'' Kragthorpe said. ``When I turn the film on, what I look for is the red jerseys around the football when the ball is blown dead, and there are a lot more red jerseys now and that's good to see.''
the Ryder Cup at nearby Valhalla.
The Wildcats have dominated North Texas and Montana State, putting up eye-popping numbers in the process. Quarterback Josh Freeman seems to have developed a consistency he lacked at times during his first two years with the program and has shown a knack of making plays with his feet as well as his arm. Freeman has already accounted for nine touchdowns this year, five through the air and four on the ground.
``I think he is at the place in his career where he's ready to round out the things he is capable of,'' said Kansas State coach Ron Prince. ``There are some things that we haven't shown yet, but he is at that place now where he is able to contribute in a lot of different ways.''
Freeman's maturation hasn't been lost on his teammates. The experience gained through two roller coaster years has turned Freeman into a more patient player who no longer forces the issue when pressured. The proof lies in Freeman's completion percentage, which has risen from 53 percent as a freshman to 63 percent last year to almost 76 percent so far this season.
``It makes you real confident. You have time to run your route and the ability to get open and know the ball is going to get there on time,'' said wide receiver Brandon Banks. ``He is not like any junior college quarterback. He can put the ball wherever you want it.''
Namely, in the end zone.
57 points this year and have scored on their first offensive play in each of the season's first two games, though the task will get considerably more difficult against a much-improved Louisville defense.
Louisville's defense, which ranked 84th in the nation last season and was the main reason why the Cardinals slipped from Big East champions to 6-6 in Kragthorpe's first year, has developed a nasty streak that was missing last year. The Cardinals are fourth in the country in total defense, allowing just 193 yards per game.
``I like the way our guys are playing downhill,'' Kragthorpe said. ``I think our defense is doing a good job of running downhill and striking people.''
Not bad for a unit that has three new starters at linebacker, though Dexter Heyman, Antwon Kanady and Jon Dempsey have hardly played like newcomers. The trio has combined for 18 tackles and played with the kind of intensity preached by English.
The defense has played so well through the first two games it's taken some of the pressure off an offense that is still trying to find itself. Quarterback Hunter Cantwell, who led Louisville to a 24-6 win at Kansas State in 2006 while subbing for an injured Brian Brohm, has struggled to find a rhythm with his inexperienced wide receivers. Only sophomore Doug Beaumont has provided any kind of spark, catching 14 passes through two games.
ake a blue-collar effort against the Wildcats if the Cardinals want to help restore some of the luster to the Big East. It's been a bleak September for the conference, which is just 2-6 against opponents from other Bowl Championship Series conferences so far.

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