Though Strong felt, "the game [vs. Kentucky] was there for us to win," he realizes his team didn't execute well enough on either side of the ball to knock off the Wildcats for the first time since 2006.
What didn't Strong like in the Kentucky game? The list is lengthy.
For one, the former Florida defensive coordinator didn't like that his defense didn't record a sack against Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline or the fact that his secondary gave up big plays in the passing game.
Strong also wasn't happy about a holding call on his offense at Kentucky's five-yard line that prevented a touchdown. He also would have liked to have seen starting quarterback Adam Froman find a wide-open Doug Beaumont for a probable touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
"I'm disappointed in the execution," Strong said. "We thought we were prepared to play but we didn't execute [early] on offense or defense. We did a good job on special teams, but you can't give up the big plays like we did on defense and not score in the red zone. It's a game that we can improve on and there's a lot of improvement that we need to make."
Louisville should have plenty of opportunity to correct some of their mistakes this week against Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels dropped their season opener to Missouri State 31-9 last week.
Though Louisville rushed for 190 yards against Kentucky, including a 153-yard effort from senior running back Bilal Powell, Strong wants to see more 'big' plays from his running backs, namely junior Victor Anderson. Anderson, the Big East Freshman of the Year two years ago, carried 8 times for 32 yards against the Wildacats.
Strong also wants to see his wide receivers catch the ball better than they did against UK. Strong counted five "key" drops against the Wildcats, mostly from senior wide out Troy Pacsely. Pacsley injured his knee against Kentucky and is out against EKU. Strong also is "hopeful" that wide receiver Josh Bellamy will be available after sustaining a concussion early in the Kentucky game.
"It's simple, they're receviers - they have to catch the ball," Strong said. "They're going to get balls thrown to them and they have to make the catch. It's competitive excellence. When you're number is called you have to make plays and that didn't happen [against UK]."
Strong didn't seem displeased with Froman's play, though he wants the offense to produce more touchdowns than they did against Kentucky. Louisville's lone touchdown against the Wildcats came on Powell's 80-yard scoring run. Other than that touchdown, the Cardinals managed only three Chris Philpott field goals in the game.
"We scored field goals but we needed to match them with touchdowns," Strong said. "We need to find some playmakers on offense."
Froman, who passed for just 127 yards, threw an interception against Kentucky – his sixth in nine career games at UofL. The 6'4 senior did spread the ball around, hitting eight different receivers in the passing game.
"He managed the offense and made some good throws," Strong said. "We were in third and long too many times and that's hard on a quarterback. He got rid of the ball and threw the ball to the tight ends a lot. He missed some throws, but the thing about him is his leadership ability. He can continue to grow and get better."
Defensively, it was a tale of two halves against Kentucky. In the first half, Louisville's defense allowed touchdowns on three of UK's first four possessions, including a two-play scoring drive to open the game and a 10-play, 92-yard march for a touchdown.
But Strong's defense refused to quit despite trailing 20-3 at one point in the first half. After correcting some issues at halftime, Louisville held Kentucky to just a field goal and 170 yards in the second half. For the game, the Cardinals only allowed 74 yards rushing.
"Defensively, we needed to get lined up [correctly]," Strong said. "And we had zero sacks. We didn't get off blocks and make plays. What you really liked is that they didn't quit [when down 20-3]. They kept playing hard and made plays. But we expect guys to play hard. That's their job."
With a tough trip looming next week to Oregon State, Strong wants to see his team put together a strong effort against Eastern Kentucky and record their first win since a 10-9 victory over Syracuse last November.
"We need a win so the program can get going," Strong said. "We need a win for the players. We have to go play well so they realize they can win if they do play well."
Out Brandon Heath, LB Finger; Kamal Hogan, RB Concussion; Kamran Joyer, OL Foot; Troy Pascley, WR Knee
Probable Pete Nochta, TE Knee
At A Glance
Date: September 11, 2010
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
Stadium: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
Television: WHAS Drew Deener (pxp); Doug James (analyst)
Radio: WHAS 840 AM Paul Rogers (pxp); Stefan LeFors (analyst); Doug Ormay (sideline)
Live Statistics: www.UofLSports.com