Even the rain that came pre-game didn't dampen the enthusiasm that surrounds the Cardinal football program and its new coach, Charlie Strong.
"Considering the weather we were able to go out and perform pretty well," Strong said. "We had a good crowd, we're really excited about that. Right now there's a lot of passion, a lot of excitement, and we want to keep that going."
In the first game action of the Strong Era the Red, made up of the first team offense and defense, handled the White 28-10 in front of approximately 5,600 fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The first half was played with two 12-minute quarters and a running clock, while the second half was played with two 15-minute periods with normal game clock stoppages.
The Red dominated the statistics, outgaining the White 345-128 in total offense as UofL unveiled its new spread attack.
"Offensively we were able to move the ball, overall it was a good job," Strong said.
Led by slimmed down senior running back Bilal Powell (10 carries for 68 yards) the Red ran 25 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns, while also completing 14 of 21 passes for 229 yards and two TDs. It was a doubly good night for wide receiver Doug Beaumont. The senior, who has never scored an official touchdown in his collegiate career, finally crossed the goal line at PJCS - on a 47-yard pass play from Justin Burke in the third quarter - and also threw a TD to quarterback Adam Froman in the fourth period.
"He told me he'd never scored here and I said, ‘What?'" Strong said. "Hopefully next season we'll be able to get him the ball and score some TDs."
"If we would go into a game tomorrow it'd be hard for me to pick one," the new coach said. "We‘ll continue to let these three guys roll and see what happens."
Froman was the most successful from an offensive standpoint. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 109 yards and engineered three scoring drives.
"I think at this point I have a better grasp of this offense than I ever did last year," Froman, the 6-foot-4, 226-pound senior, said.
Burke was 5 for 9 for 101 yards, with a majority of those yards coming on the TD to Beaumont, while Will Stein, the White team's only QB, was 8 for 15 for 92 yards with one interception. He did, though, run for the White's only score with 25 seconds to play.
The Cards, coming off a disappointing 4-8 season, were out to show that they are a tougher team than last year even before the scrimmage started with their "Circle of Life" drill where the players line up in a circle then two are called out to hit in the middle. It brought some early cheers of approval from the fans, as did the first possession by each team.
The White team, the No. 2 offense, got off to a good start with five straight plays of 5-plus yards. However a penalty, a negative rush and an incompletion ended the drive.
However the Red, led by red-headed Froman, quickly cashed in on its first possession. It drove 60 yards in only six plays, five of which were rushes, to go up 7-0 (extra points were awarded after a touchdown without an actual kick). Powell got things started off with a bang with a 35-yard run on the Red's first play. He rushed three times on the drive for 41 yards, including a 1-yard TD.
"Bilal Powell, he's lost some weight and gotten a lot quicker. This spring shows that he's going to have a big year," Beaumont said.
Beaumont set up Powell's score with a 15-yard reverse rush that ended at the 1 despite his dive. "I was like, ‘Oh, here we go again. I never get in the endzone,'" Beaumont said.
The rest of the first half was a defensive standstill. The two teams combined for only one more first down before halftime and it came on the penultimate play of the half on a Burke pass to Troy Pascley. The White team tallied only 39 total yards on 13 offensive plays in the first half, while the Red amassed 94 on 13 plays.
At halftime the former UofL seniors were honored with their jerseys and each was accompanied by a former Cardinal great.
The second half began like the first for the Red. With Burke under center, as he was on the team's last possession of the first half, the Red seemed dead after he was sacked by redshirt freshman Roy Philon for a 13-yard loss leaving a third-and-long. However a pass interference penalty kept the drive alive, and two plays later Beaumont caught a short pass from Burke, spun out of a would-be tackle and took it to the end zone.
"I finally got across the goal line, it was a great feeling," Beaumont said. "Hopefully I can do it in the season."
The White tried to answer on its ensuing possession, but Stein was sacked by redshirt freshman defensive end Malcolm Mitchell. The White, however, did salvage some points thanks to Chris Philpot's 53-yard field goal.
The Red, with Froman back at quarterback, then put the game out of reach with back-to-back scoring drives. The first one, which covered 65 yards in nine plays, was capped by Blayne Donnell's 2-yard TD run. The second, which covered 79 yards in eight plays, ended when Beaumont connected with Froman on a flea flicker for a 19-yard touchdown. The Red had an opportunity for another TD on its next possession, but Josh Chichester juggled, and dropped, a sure-touchdown from Burke.
"Our receivers have to make some plays," Strong said.
For many UofL fans it was the first time seeing Strong's spread attack, which wasn't the wide-open offense of the Bobby Petrino Era or the vanilla of the Steve Kragthorpe Era either.
"I feel like this offense is very versatile," Beaumont said.
Meanwhile the defense, which Strong said was slightly behind the offense at this point, didn't do bad either. The two teams combined for 13 tackles for loss and seven quarterback sacks. Mitchell, a 6-2, 237-pounder from Stone Mountain, Ga., had a pair of sacks (one in which he actually hit, and irritated, the green-shirted Stein) and three tackles for loss. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jacob Geffrad collected a game-best seven tackles.
"We're a more physical team," said senior defensive end Malcolm Tatum, who had one sack and one tackle for loss.
And, as the Cards showed Friday night, a different one too.
"He's taken a team that wasn't believing in themselves to going strong and running around knowing we're going to go into the season and win a bunch of football games," Froman said.