Snapping a four-game skid to the Wildcats with a 24-17 victory on Saturday night in Lexington just may be the start.
"We needed a statement game to change the culture," Strong said. "We have to change it within our university. We have to get the support back into this university."
Meanwhile, the Wildcats missed a chance to gain some momentum before facing Florida, LSU and South Carolina - all teams currently in the Top 25 - in the next three weeks. Kentucky coach Joker Phillips thinks the atmosphere of the annual Governor's Cup meeting will still help, though.
"It's still a long season," he said. "We're only three games into it, and it's good that a lot of these young players were in a game like this, which is an SEC atmosphere. I think that really helps the young kids that we're playing with."
Strong, who jumped gleefully around on the sidelines as the clock wound down, had said earlier in the week that his team lacked the confidence needed to be a good team and that the Cardinals had been overshadowed by Kentucky's accomplishments in recent years. Strong and Phillips are both in their second year as head coach of their respective programs.
Louisville is among the youngest teams in the nation after losing 25 seniors from last year's team, the only Cardinals squad to go to a bowl game in five seasons. Strong's team got a shot of confidence against the Wildcats from several young players.
True freshman Teddy Bridgewater took over early in the second quarter after Will Stein left the field with a shoulder injury and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Josh Bellamy to give the Cardinals a 24-10 lead with 11:15 left in the game.
"I was very relaxed," Bridgewater said. "I live for an atmosphere like this."
Kentucky (2-1) answered with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Morgan Newton to E.J. Fields with 4:56 left to cut the margin to 24-17.
Louisville went three-and-out on the next drive, but Newton, who was under pressure by the Cardinals' defense for much of the second half, overthrew La'Rod King on fourth-and-6 at the Louisville 18, ending the Wildcats' hopes for a comeback. It marked the end of Kentucky's 18-game winning streak against nonconference opponents at home, dating back to 2005.
Newton was 27 for 41 for 255 yards, and King caught seven passes for 84 yards, but Kentucky couldn't match Louisville on the ground. Newton was sacked six times for a loss of 48 yards, negating nearly all the effort by CoShik Williams and Josh Clemons, who were playing in place of Raymond Sanders. Sanders underwent surgery Thursday to repair a slight cartilage tear in his right knee.
The Cardinals outgained the Wildcats on the ground 181 yards to 35, led by Brown's 91 yards on 14 carries.
"Anytime you don't have that running game going, it makes you seem a little one-dimensional," Newton said. "That's something we cannot be, especially with the teams we play. We have to be efficient running the ball, and we have to be efficient passing it."
Bridgewater, who had only played on two drives in Louisville's first two games, finished 10-of-18 for 106 yards. He found his rhythm in the air after competing four passes to four different receivers on the Cardinals' last drive of the first half. The final pass was a 25-yard toss to another true freshman, DeVante Parker, to give the Cardinals a 14-3 lead with 1:16 to go before halftime.
Kentucky had struggled offensively ever since Craig McIntosh kicked a 20-yard field goal on the opening drive, but the Wildcats came to life with their hurry-up offense. Newton capped an 80-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to King with 10 seconds left before halftime to cut Louisville's lead to 14-10.
The Cardinals followed McIntosh's early field goal by going three and out twice in a row against a Kentucky defense that had only allowed 16 points total in its previous two games.
Stein managed to inject some energy before leaving the game when he found Andrell Smith at the corner of the end zone on a 38-yard scoring strike to give Louisville a 7-3 lead with 2:53 to go in the first quarter. He left the game on the first play of the Cardinals' next drive.