Cards sticking together & 'staying positive'

University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong is staying positive with his team and the Cardinals are still gunning for their goals even after a 38-35 loss to Central Florida on Friday night. Cardinal Authority spoke with several players and Strong about where the team heads after the first loss of the season.

Just after his team gave up 31 second-half points and saw their hopes for an undefeated season dashed, University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong kept throwing positive messages towards the Cardinals.

While noting the loss was disappointing, Strong reminded his team the Cardinals won a share of the Big East title last season and made it to a BCS bowl game despite two conference losses. He told them they needed to improve, stay focused and only worry about themselves.

And not to listen to outside voices.

"They've heard enough negative talk already," Strong said. "I just have to continue to keep them built up and we have to continue to move forward. They've heard enough already. We were undefeated and we still hear it, that's why I keep telling them we're the best team in college football."

Strong will have a hard time proving that after the stinging loss to Central Florida, a game his team led 28-7 with 7:52 remaining in the third quarter.

But the Cardinals still have plenty to play for.

With a 6-1 record, U of L has five regular-season games left starting with a noon game next Saturday in Tampa, Fla., against South Florida.

"It doesn't damage them at all," quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said of the team's ultimate goals of a league title and BCS Bowl game. "It's college football and you know anything can happen in college football.

"We are going to keep our faith, keep our heads up and continue to finish the season as the way we want to."

Added safety Hakeem Smith: "It's disappointing. But this isn't the end of our season. We have to get back to work, correct the things we did wrong and there's still a lot of football to be played."

Smith's feelings were echoed by most in the locker room with running back Dominique Brown pointing out there were no tears on the squad.

The Cardinals were more ticked off and ready to get back to work.

"We have to come back, get ready and go to USF and play with a chip on our shoulders," Brown said. "It's not over."

While some of the players have said recently that the Cardinals were a little too cocky last season when they reached 9-0, that wasn't the sentiment this time around. While the outside voices were talking undefeated season and BCS bowls, the inner circle of the program "stayed focused," linebacker Preston Brown said.

"Of course you think about it," Brown said. "We were undefeated. You think about the big game and all that stuff. All that's out the window now in the conference that we play in. You've got to win the conference and hopefully get to a BCS game."

With some help needed to get the Cards back to a BCS bowl, U of L would likely head to the Russell Athletic Bowl if they finish second or third in the AAC. The Russell Bowl is played on Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla.

"Our goals are still there and we still have a chance to win the conference," Strong said. "Now we're one behind them (UCF). We've got to continue to play well and get better. We can improve. We've still got some ways to improve and this game was a good measuring stick for us because that was a very good football team."

Added Dominique Brown: "It's the game of football. You win some, you lose some. You can't get demoralized."

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