"It's still hard for me to stomach that loss because we just didn't prepare our football team," Strong said Monday. "We did a poor job of coaching and the players did a poor job playing. Everyone has a job to do and I expect it to be done every Saturday. There are only so many opportunities, only 12. You can't waste an opportunity. For us not to go out and play with energy, emotion, to play fast and play as a team for one another is unacceptable. It can never happen again."
Strong's teams have struggled at home the past two seasons, and the loss to Marshall dropped the Cardinals to 1-2 at PJCS this season. Despite a season-high 53,000-plus crowd Saturday, Louisville couldn't find a way to hang on against the Thundering Herd, who lost earlier this season to Ohio 44-17.
"We had the crowd. Our fans were unbelievable," said Strong. "For us to go out and play the way we did I can see why they don't want to watch us play. It was a poor, poor performance for us as a coaching staff, and our players. I want a team that's tough. I want a team that's smart and a team that's disciplined. We didn't get that on Saturday."
Louisville didn't play well in any phase of the game against the Herd. The offense gained just 283 total yards and the ground game never mustered anything of substance. Defensively, Louisville committed key penalties, didn't generate consistent pass rush and too often didn't get off the field on third down. Even special teams weren't immune from sub-standard play.
"We didn't win the line of scrimmage. They out-rushed us on Saturday. They out-toughed us," said Strong. "You talk about a team that's smart. We committed way too many missed assignments. On defense alone we had 24 missed assignments. That just shows you where the focus of this football team was. Then you talk about discipline – we had 11 penalties. In all three phases – offense, defense and the kicking game we did not play well."
Clearly, Strong's young team learned a valuable lesson from their come-from-ahead loss to Marshall. Strong said his team never focused properly on the task at hand heading into the Marshall game after beating rival Kentucky two weeks ago.
"I told our players when you're totally committed to doing something you will do everything possible to make sure you're locked into it," Strong said. "We didn't put the Kentucky game behind us. We still lived off that game and I saw it coming and didn't do anything about it. In pre-game warm-up I saw it coming. It's my fault for that performance and that can never happen again in this program."
After breaking through with the program's first win against Kentucky in four years, Strong's team took a step in the opposite direction with a disappointing loss against Marshall.
"We took a step backward," Strong said. "We talk about moving this program forward. We took a step backward because of our performance. That shouldn't have happened. If we're going to be who we say we want to be then we have to work every day and the accountability and responsibility has to be there because we're not good enough to roll the ball out there and go play….we're not that football team right now."
Strong placed much of the blame for his team's lack of focus on his most experienced players.
"Our seniors didn't play their best football on Saturday. I went down the line yesterday in the meeting and pointed out every one of them," said Strong. "From a pass interference to a guy hitting another guy out of bounds to a guy not blocking to a guy having only one tackle. All that plays together and that was our senior group - the guys that we say are the leaders of this team."
Now, Strong's Cards face a difficult road game against North Carolina this Saturday.
"Going into North Carolina it's going to be a challenge for us," Strong said. "They're a really good football team, very solid. They are playing very well offensively, defensively and special teams. It's going to be a big challenge for us."