The Cardinals clobbered Memphis 56-0 - recording the program's first shutout in four years - in front of 48,427 fans in UofL's homecoming at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Senior quarterback Adam Froman passed for four first-half touchdowns and senior running back Bilal Powell rushed for a career-high 204 yards and two more scores in Louisville's final tune-up before beginning Big East play.
"From the first whistle to the last whistle it was our most complete game," said Froman, who completed 12 of 16 passes for 235 yards and the aforementioned four touchdowns.
"We needed to go out and play well, go finish a game, and we did," Strong said. "We needed to play well and play a complete game, and we did that.
"This completes Phase Two of our schedule." Phase One, Strong said, was the Cards' season-opener against archrival Kentucky. Phase Two was UofL's four other pre-conference games against Eastern Kentucky, Oregon State, Arkansas State and the Tigers. Phase Three is Louisville's Big East portion of the schedule.
The Cards (3-2) ended Phrase Two in style by mauling Memphis. UofL racked up 574 yards of total offense (299 rushing, 275 passing) against a Tigers team that came in ranked 94th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in total defense. Memphis (1-5) nearly gave up its average (408.8 yards per game) in the first half, as the Cards compiled 380 yards of offense (180 rushing, 200 passing) in building a 35-0 lead.
Meanwhile Memphis, which entered ranked 110th nationally in total offense and 113th in scoring offense, to just 224 yards of total offense, including only 39 rushing yards on 34 carries (an average of 1.1 yards per carry).
"It's like a monkey off our back," junior defensive tackle Greg Scruggs said. "We pitch a shutout and we finish, it's a tribute to our hard work and our practice."
In fact it was Louisville's defense that led to its first touchdown.
Midway through the first quarter senior cornerback Johnny Patrick, in his 19th straight start, picked off Ryan Williams' pass at the UofL 19 to end Memphis‘ second drive. He returned his sixth career INT, and his second of the season, 20 yards to the Cards' 39.
Buoyed by back-to-back completions from Froman to Josh Bellamy the Cards quickly moved downfield. Facing third-and-6 at the Memphis 39 Froman rolled to his right and threw to tight end Cameron Graham near the right sideline. Graham did the rest, taking it down the sideline for the TD - a play that was upheld under replay review.
The second quarter was all Cards. They scored 28 points on drives of one, six, one and three plays.
Trick play equaled touchdown for the Cards 15 seconds into the second period. On first-and-10 from the Memphis 48 UofL was lined up in its "Wildcard" formation. Powell took the shotgun snap, then handed to Vic Anderson, who then ran to his right and flipped to Froman, who had been lined up as a receiver. The quarterback/wide receiver found a wide, wide, wide open Josh Chichester in the middle of the field. Chichester had to slow up to make the catch, but it didn't matter because he had no one in front of him and no one within 5 yards behind him. He took it in for a 48-yard TD.
Two great catches by Bellamy on Louisville's next drive helped make it 21-0. The first came on a 44-yard bomb from Froman that Bellamy had to turn around to catch the ball while looking directly into the sun. He fell short of the end zone, falling down at the Tigers 3, but three plays later Bellamy caught a bullet from Froman to give the Cards a three-TD lead.
UofL's second one-play drive of the quarter came after yet other Memphis punt. On first-and-10 at his own 26 Powell took a handoff from Froman and ran to his left before making a great cut-back to his right, where he found some more running room and a clear path to the end zone.
"Bilal is a special player, he's the face of our program," Strong said. "He just goes out and competes. He can either make a move, or go run over a guy. We've needed him to play like he has been."
Froman threw his fourth, and final, TD pass of the first half on Louisville's next possession. This one, a 28-yard connection with Bellamy, gave the Cards a 35-0 lead with 5:05 left in the first half.
"Bellamy was big-time," Froman said. "We need him to be that way. In one-on-one coverage he can't be stopped, no one can cover him."
It was more of the same after intermission.
"We came out the second half and put the pedal to the metal," Scruggs said.
UofL took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched downfield, going 68 yards in eight plays. Powell's 10-yard touchdown run capped it off.
The Cards added another TD on their second possession of the second half. This time, with backup quarterback Justin Burke running the offense, UofL went 58 yards in seven plays. Its lead grew to 49-0 after Burke's 4-yard touchdown toss to Andrell Smith.
"We gave up too many big plays on defense," Memphis coach Larry Porter said. "I don't think we played the second or third quarter of this game. We did not stop them to give our offense a chance. We missed some big tackles. We put them in a position to make big plays that led them to a lot of points."
UofL's final points came on Jeremy Wright's 28-yard touchdown run with 6:30 to play.
"We knew our offense was really explosive," senior right tackle Greg Tomczyk said. "We came in really prepared, took care of our assignments and really busted out."
"Our confidence is as high as it's been since I've been here," Froman added.
The Cards will take that with them into Friday night's 8 p.m. Big East opener against Cincinnati at PJCS as they begin Phase Three of their season.
"We knew we were a better football team than Memphis and Arkansas State, we just needed to go out and prove it," Strong said. "This is a whole different team than when we played Kentucky. They are all developing. Our seniors are playing well, Powell, Froman, our offensive linemen. We have some guys who want to win - our seniors.
"We can really get a lot better than we are, we are only scratching the surface. You can just see us turning things around, getting better, they are believing in themselves."