Now, with just one more non-conference tuneup before jumping into Big East play next week against Cincinnati, the first-year coach wants to see continued improvement from the Cardinals this week against Memphis.
"We're four games into it now and we're 2-2," Charlie Strong said Monday on the Big East coaches call. "We're looking to get better each week. We still have a long way to go and a lot of work that needs to be done."
Strong's team has made big strides on offense since a 23-16 season-opening loss vs. Kentucky. The Cardinals have gained more than 450 total yards offense in their last two games, including a whopping 575 yards in Saturday's 34-24 win at Arkansas State. On the rise, UofL now ranks No. 29 nationally in total offense.
"We need to improve on offense, [specifically] we've had a lot of penalties that have stopped drives and we need to overcome those penalties," Strong said. "Three of them [vs. Arkansas State] were on third down. Defensively, we've got to get lined up and not give up the big plays. And our special teams we've got to be a better cover team and getting direct angles to the ball."
"There's still a lot of work to be done," Strong added.
Louisville's win over the Red Wolves Saturday was a tale of two halves. The Cardinals came out strong on the road to storm out to a 31-7 halftime lead, only to allow Arkansas State to mount a second half rally that cut the margin to seven points late in the game.
"Looking back at Arkansas State we played very well in the first half," Strong said. "We were very physical and ended up scoring 31 points – we were up 31-7. Then we got into the second half and didn't play well in the third quarter, but we were able to come back in the fourth quarter and not give up any big plays or touchdowns and put the game away."
Strong thinks his team will learn some valuable lessons from their win over the Red Wolves.
"Our team continues to get better each week," Strong said. "What's great is that they can learn from this game. They were up big but were able to hold on and it's the first road victory for us in two years. I just like the way we continue to get better each week. I thought having a week off after the Oregon State game we would come out flat, but we came out and played a really good first half against Arkansas State."
Strong said its critical that Louisville plays well against a Memphis team that lost to Tulsa 48-7 this weekend. Why is it a critical game? Because it's the final tuneup before Cincinnati comes to town to kickoff the Big East season.
"They're struggling right now," Strong said of Memphis. "Their quarterback Ryan Williams got knocked out of that game. But they have a good running game and a good defense. It's going to be a really good matchup for us. We should be expected to play well. It's important that we go win this game [because] we're getting ready to go into our conference play."
Memphis, now 1-4 under first year coach Larry Porter, has struggled defensively this season, giving up 48 or more points in three of their four losses. The Tigers have also struggled on offense, averaging only 15.4 points this season, while ranking No. 110 nationally in total offense.
"We can't worry about Memphis, we have to make sure we get better," Strong said.
Kickoff for the Louisville-Memphis game at PJCS is set for 2 pm this Saturday.