Strong gets first win against EKU

Louisville gave first-year coach Charlie Strong his first career win Saturday at PJCS with a victory over Eastern Kentucky. The Cardinals jumped out to a 23-0 halftime lead, then held on for a 23-13 win over the Colonels.

It was a day of firsts for the University of Louisville football team Saturday.

Doug Beaumont scored the first touchdown of his career, Charlie Strong picked up the first win of his young career as a head coach and, most importantly, the Cardinals won their first game of the 2010 season.

UofL rode a sterling second quarter to a 23-13 win over Eastern Kentucky University in front of 51,427 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

"It was a great team victory," Strong said. "It was good to see our guys (win), they work so hard...In the second half we didn't play as well as we would have liked to. What was disappointing as the number of penalties. We had a lot of penalties on offense to stop dries and a lot of penalties in our kicking game. But it was so good to get that win, to see our guys just come out and compete today."

It was also the first career victory for the coach who is in charge of reviving a once proud program.

"I didn't really think about it that way," Strong said. "I wanted the team to get the win more than myself."

And several different players helped in that. Senior running back Bilal Powell rushed for 92 yards and two touchdowns, while junior Victor Anderson had 84 yards (67 rushing, 17 receiving) of total offense and senior quarterback Adam Froman completed 15 of 23 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown to offset one interception. But the most significant contribution came from Beaumont, the senior receiver from Male High School, who had four catches for 83 yards, including the first TD of his distinguished college career on a 48-yard bomb from Froman in the second quarter.

"Mr. Reliable, that‘s who he is," Strong said of Beaumont. "He scored a touchdown, then he didn't get a chance to celebrate because he had to run back down on kickoff. I told him he could spike it, but he didn't hear me and he said, ‘Coach I forgot.' I'm just so happy for him."

The Cards (1-1) erupted for 23 second-period points, but didn't score any more.

Doug Beaumont caught his first touchdown Saturday against Eastern Kentucky.
"Offensively we were never really in a rhythm," Strong said. "Even in the second half we went for it on fourth down and two receivers hit each other. We still made the catch, but were still short (of the first down)."

The Colonels (0-2) rallied for 13 points in late in the game, but only amassed 230 yards of offense (compared to UofL's 388).

"We didn't break down on defense in the second half," Strong said. "I think the only tiime they got a drive was when they broke the long run. But other than that, we still brought pressure and contained them.

Senior defensive end Rodney Gnat, who strong nicknamed "Big Pretty" in the preseason, led the Cards in that regard. He tallied four of UofL's eight sacks, and also forced a fumble. Afterward the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Gnat was asked what it was like to hit the quarterback so many times.

"I played baseball in high school, it's almost like hitting a home run," Gnat said.

But he had help. Junior linebacker Dexter Heyman, seeing more time with injured Brandon Heath out, had 4½ tackles, including one sack.

The Cards' defense got an early test on EKU's second possession, but the Colonels' drive stalled at the UofL 24 and Logan O'Connor missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.

That seemed to spark the Cards.

On its ensuing possession UofL covered 75 yards in nine plays. The biggest was a 20-yard completion from Froman to tight end Josh Chichester. The 6-9 junior fumbled the ball at the EKU 2, but luckily for the Cards he lost it out of bounds. Powell scored from 2 yards out on the next play to make 7-0.

UofL made it 9-0 nearly six minutes later when EKU tight end Nathan Watts was flagged for holding in the Colonels' end zone, which resulted in a safety for the Cards.

UofL scored TDs on its final two possessions of the first half. The first was by Beaumont. Facing first-and-10 from the EKU 42 Froman threw over the top.

"I told somebody before the game, ‘If I don't score against EKU then it's not going to happen,' because there were a lot of plays for me," Beaumont said. "It was a deep post route, me one-on-one with the cornerback. I stuck him pretty good, got open and then he threw me the ball...When I saw him throw it I said, ‘This is the one,' and I had to speed up a little bit. I was just trying to concentrate on the ball. When I caught the ball and I was across the line I was relieved, I raised my hand.

"Now I don't have to worry about anybody else asking the question (about when I'd score my first TD). If I had a dollar for every time I was asked, I'd be rich by now."

EKU went three-and-out on its next possession and the Cards made it count again. They drove 50 yards in only six plays. The last three of those were rushes by Powell, including his 3-yard TD with 38 seconds left in the half.

UofL dominated the first half, rolling up 290 yards of total offense (compared to EKU's 99).

The second half wasn't as easy. The Cards' offense seemed sluggish and even when they did have a good drive it turned out bad.

After a 62-yard punt gave UofL the ball at its own 5 the Cards quickly drove to the Colonels' 27. But on second-and-4 Froman's pass was intercepted by Jeremy Caldwell and returned 80 yards for a touchdown with five minutes left in the third quarter.

EKU scored the only offensive touchdown of the second half with 2:28 remaining in the game on a 1-yard TD toss from Brendon Gregory, who came in for starter T.J. Pryor (groin pull) in the third quarter, to Kyle Lumpkin.

"I felt good as far as the kids never giving up," EKU coach Dean Hood said. "At times it looked like they could have shut us out, and it not have been a football game. But our kids hung in there and kept battling and kept fighting. Some of the early scores were some things we could of, would of, or should of done better."

The Colonels' two-point conversion attempt failed, but they did get the ball back on an ensuing onside kick.

EKU had first-and-10 at its own 39 with 2:28 to play in the game, but the Colonels' comeback dreams were quickly dashed. Heyman sacked Gregory for a 4-yard loss, before an incompletion that was followed by the game-clinching interception by running-back-turned-defensive-back Darius Ashley.

"It's a big win, it gets the monkey off our back," Beaumont said.

The Cards (1-1) next play at Oregon State at 5:35 p.m. next Saturday.

"It is going to be a hostile environment," Strong said. "That is a really good football team. So we are going to have to improve as a football team. We have to get better on both sides of the ball, plus the special teams, because we are going to go play a good fooball team. When you are on the road I tell them that you have to pack your defense, pack your kicking game and pack your togetherness...They have some really good players so it is going to be a great challenge for us."

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