Statement WinCharlie Strong said his young Louisville team made a big ‘statement' with their 24-17 win over Kentucky Saturday in Lexington.
"It was an outstanding win for our program," Strong said Monday. "The thing about this game is we can get so much better. After losing four straight games (to Kentucky), this was a statement game that we needed to get our program headed in the right direction."
In his second season at UofL, Strong clearly has the program headed in the right direction. With an overall 9-7 record, Strong guided Louisville to its first bowl win in four seasons last year, and now has snapped Kentucky's four-game winning streak in the Governor's Cup series.
"We kept the crowd at bay and didn't let the emotion of the crowd control the game – our defense was able to control the game," Strong said. "We didn't give up many big plays – our front seven controlled the game. We were able to get sacks. We weren't going to let Newton beat us with his feet.
Strong also praised Louisville's offensive line and running game, which had struggled in a loss to FIU, and the special teams, which blocked a UK punt in the first half that gave UofL excellent field position. "It was a total effort by our whole football team," Strong said.
Quarterback Controversy Brewing?Is there a quarterback controversy brewing after Teddy Bridgewater's strong performance against Kentucky? Will Bridgewater replace Will Stein, who injured his shoulder in the first half against the Wildcats, in the starting lineup against after the bye-week?
"The only reason Stein isn't the starter is because he was injured," Charlie Strong said Monday. "I don't believe you lose your position because you're injured. Stein will be back as a starter, but Teddy can go in and play as we saw the other night. We don't want to create a quarterback controversy. Stein's the starter and Teddy knows his position. The good thing about those guys is they complement each other." Even before Stein's injury, Strong said his staff had planned to play Bridgewater more against UK. Even if Stein remains the starter, expect Bridgewater's playing time to increase.
"That was our thinking going into this game," Strong said. "Before Stein ever came out, Teddy was going to get in the second quarter and third quarter and then we were just going to see how the fourth quarter (went)."
Though Bridgewater played only two series in UofL's first two games, Strong wasn't surprised that the true freshman performed well in his first extended action of the season against Kentucky.
"Teddy played very well for a freshman on the road in a hostile environment," Strong said. "I wasn't surprised by the way he played. The reason I wasn't surprised is just his whole demeanor and the way he carries himself. He gets half the reps (in practice) so he knows what's going on."
Strong Conference?With the future of the Big East in doubt after the weekend departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, Charlie Strong said Monday that he feels "good" about Louisville's position in the ever-shifting conference landscape.
"I love where Louisville stands if you look at what we have (to offer)," Strong said. "Each sport that we have – we can compete in any sport on the men's and women's side. I feel really good about our chances."
"I know our president (James Ramsey) and (athletic director) Tom (Jurich) will make the right decision for us. We can only control what we have in front of us. With all of these different alignments there are no surprises."
Injury UpdateStrong provided injury updates on three starters – QB Will Stein, OL John Miller and CB Andrew Johnson – who were injured during the win over Kentucky and didn't return to action Saturday night. Stein sustained a shoulder injury; Miller and Johnson injured ankles.
"Stein probably can go in practice (this week) but Miller I don't know," Strong said. "I hope he's not (lost for the season) and I don't think he is. Johnson has a high ankle (sprain). We have some key injuries and we're hoping that we can get them back and this bye-week can help us."
"Mario is close," Strong said. "With him it's one of those situations where you really have to watch him. I know he wants to get out there."
Brown SwitchDominique Brown, UofL's third-string quarterback, was too talented to keep on the sideline. So Strong's staff inserted the sophomore into the backfield against Kentucky and Brown made a major impact on the outcome, rushing for a game-high 91 yards on 14 carries.
"You don't want to see someone who is 215-220 pounds, who is one of your better players, standing on the sideline," Strong said. "He's so big and physical and he can run behind his pads. He's one of those guys who can make plays for you. That's going to be critical. As he continues to develop at the running back position people can't load the box."