Coming off a 23-13 win over Eastern Kentucky, Strong and his team have lots of work to do this week during practice before heading west to face Jacquizz Rodgers and the Beavers this weekend. Though Louisville evened their record at 1-1 last weekend against the Colonels, Strong said Monday his team needs to make considerable improvement during practice this week.
"We have to get better," Strong said during Monday's Big East conference call. "We have to get better overall as a football team. There were a lot of penalties. We have to work on technique this week and make sure our players continue to improve."
Though Louisville committed only four penalties in the season-opener against Kentucky, the Cardinals were sloppy against EKU, committing 11 penalties for 100 yards. Strong's team also hasn't done a good job protecting the football, committing five turnovers in the first two games, including three against the Colonels.
"What we have to do to get things going is... put together a complete game," Strong said. "As a coaching staff we've got to get our guys prepared to play 60 minutes, which we haven't done the first two games. We have to get the message across that it's a 60 minute game and they have to go play and do their job for the entire 60 minute."
With his offense struggling, Strong's defense turned in a solid effort against the Colonels, allowing just 230 total yards. The Cardinals defense allowed only six points and registered eight sacks against EKU, 4.5 by senior defensive end Rodney Gnat.
"I felt like our team played well, but we still have a long way to go," Strong said. "I liked the way we played the first half, but we didn't go out and finish the second half. Defensively I felt we were able to pressure the quarterback and ended up with eight [sacks]. Offensively, we started out strong in the first half, but we missed some wide receivers and didn't make the right read the time [Froman] ended up throwing the interception."
Louisville's slow starts offensively are a growing concern to Strong. The Cards didn't score in the first quarter against either Kentucky or Eastern Kentucky.
"Offense is about rhythm and the first two games we haven't had any rhythm," Strong said. "Our whole focus has to be playing faster and making sure we get first downs to keep drives going. When you don't get first downs you end up having to punt it. We weren't able to sustain those drives. It's all about rhythm and we have to get rhythm going early."
Strong is hopeful his offense will find its rhythm this week against an Oregon State defense that gave up 30 points in a loss to TCU two weeks ago. The Horned Frogs enjoyed success against the Beavers defense, gaining 453 total yards, including nearly 280 on the ground. Though Louisville has averaged just 19.5 points this season, the Cardinals have enjoyed success on the ground, rushing for 180 yards per contest.
"Oregon State is a really good football team," Strong said. "The thing you like about [them] is they have so many weapons. They have the two Rodgers that are very good players and they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They do a good job throwing the ball down the field and defensively they're really solid."
Louisville's big chore defensively will be to contain Rodgers, a shifty running back who rushed for 75 yards on 18 carries against TCU.
"Our whole defense is going to have to play well because Rodgers is really a special player," Strong said. "What's going to be important is to get aligned on defense and then we have to tackle. We've got to make sure we get enough guys around the football when he does carry it."