Louisville head coach Charlie Strong kicked off game week with his customary Monday afternoon press conference at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex. Strong’s third season at the helm of the 25th-ranked Cardinals will begin on Sunday at 3:30 p.m., ET at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium against rival Kentucky in the annual Governor’s Cup showdown and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN.
The Cardinals begin their 94th season of college football in 2012. Louisville returns 18 starters from last year’s squad, including 10 on defense and eight on offense. U of L was 7-6 last year and won its second BIG EAST title. Last season, the Cardinals snapped a four-game losing skid to the Wildcats with a 24-17 victory at Commonwealth Stadium.
Quotes from Monday’s press conference
Strong sets the tone with his opening statement…
Charlie Strong: “From the beginning, one of our goals has been to improve each and every day. We don’t always accomplish this goal because our team is still learning how to work. They don’t understand that every second is very meaningful. What they have to realize and what we have to continue to teach them is that it’s all about hard work and team effort. We’re not a team that can turn the switch on and off. That switch has to always be on for us as a football team.”
“What this team has to do is block out the expectations and come to work each and every day. We’ve tried to manage that through the preseason. Preparation is going to be the key. It’s all about preparation and it’s all about that with the coaching staff. I tell our coaching staff ‘guys, this team is going to go as you go.’ If we prepare them every day with attention to the small details and the little things, this team has a chance to grow and develop. We have to get better each and every week.”
Three talented options for the Cardinals at running back…
CS: “Jeremy Wright, Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry are three solid running backs. Whoever wins that position is going to be an every down player. It’ll be someone that can run the ball — run behind his pads — and someone who can catch the football. We’re very fortunate to have three very good players at that position.”
Winning starts in the trenches…
CS: “In order for this football team to be a very competitive football, in the trenches is where it has to happen. On the offensive line, you look at (Alex) Kupper. You look at Mario Benavides. You look at (John) Miller. You look at Jamon Brown. You look at Jake smith. You have five players that are returning that have starts from last season. Then you also have some guys you can alternate in there to give us some help. With our offensive line, we feel really good about it. It’s a group that’s gelling and when that group gels for you, the whole team gels.”
Expectations are about finishing the job…
CS: “We have to continue to bring in guys with good character and guys that are responsible players. We have to take pride in this program. The expectations here are very high right now. We’re a preseason ranked football team and we haven’t talked about it. I don’t talk to our players about it because I want them to understand that you have to work. It doesn’t matter where you start. It’s going to be about where we finish. That’s why we have to finish every play.”
Playing fast and confident…
CS: “This game is a big game for us…a rivalry game. It’s going to be a good battle. It’s critical that we play hard. I want to see our team go play hard and everything else will take care of itself. We must go out there and play with confidence and compete. We have to give them a plan where our guys can run around and play fast and play with energy.”
- Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is back for 2012 after throwing for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns and is joined by the Cards’ top two receivers from last season, Eli Rogers and DeVante Parker.
- Defensively, the Cardinals’ only loss was linebacker Dexter Heyman, while the Cardinals return All-BIG EAST performers Hakeem Smith (safety) and Adrian Bushell (cornerback).
- Sunday’s game marks the 25th meeting all-time between Louisville and Kentucky. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 14-10, but the Cardinals are 10-8 since the two schools resumed playing in 1994.
- Louisville boasts a 36-18 record against non-conference foes since the 2002 season.
- The Cardinals were 4-0 last season when rushing for 140 yards or more and just 3-6 when running for fewer than 140 yards.