Head coach Charlie Strong met with the media on Monday at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex to recap last week’s home win over Missouri State and preview the 19th-ranked Cardinals’ showdown with North Carolina. Louisville and UNC will kick off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., ET at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and the game will be televised ABC.
The Cardinals improved to 2-0 overall with their 35-7 victory over the Bears last Saturday afternoon in Louisville. U of L is 2-0 for the first time since the 2007 season when they opened with wins over Murray State and Middle Tennessee. North Carolina enters the weekend at 1-1 on the season after suffering a 28-27 loss at Wake Forest last Saturday. In their opener, the Tar Heels earned a 62-0 win over Elon.
Notes & quotes from Monday’s press conference
Selected opening comments from Charlie Strong: “We have an outstanding challenge coming up this weekend, and what we need to do is keep improving as a football team. North Carolina is a very solid team, even though they lost at the very end this past weekend to Wake Forest. They have a very good offense, which is up-tempo. They like to get on the ball quickly and run a lot of plays. I have a lot of respect for Larry Fedora; he was the head coach at Southern Mississippi when we played them in the bowl game and he was also a coach with me at the University of Florida. Dan Disch, their defensive coordinator, was also with me at the University of Florida and does a great job. They are very aggressive on defense and very solid in the kicking game, so this will be a great test for our program. I think this weekend we will find out exactly who we are as a football program and find out what steps we need to make to continue this program in the right direction.”
- Through two games, UNC is averaging 44.5 points per contest and 476.0 yards per game. With an average of 200 yards per outing on the ground, the Tar Heels’ running game includes talented backs like A.J. Blue (72.5 yards per game) and Giovani Bernard (93.0 yard per game). Quarterback Bryn Renner is averaging more than 253 yards through the air per game, while Erik Highsmith leads the receivers with eight catches for 115 yards.
CS: “Offensively, their quarterback, (Bryn) Renner, started against us last year. He does a great job of commanding the offense. They have two outstanding running backs in (A.J.) Blue and Giovani Bernard, so they like to run the ball and get downhill. They use the zone-read play and open up the holes to let their backs cut it back. Their offensive line is big and is probably one of the biggest teams we will play. They are similar to the North Carolina team a year ago with guys that are 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-4 and 280-300 pounds across the board. They are very athletic and do a great job pulling on run plays. At wide receiver, they have a lot of height with 6-foot-4 guys on the outside. They like to throw the ball up and run a lot of now screens to the outside. What we have to do defensively is execute and not give up the big play. They try to get the ball into their wide receivers’ hands because they are playmakers and they try to get them in position to outrun people down the field.”
- On Sunday, Louisville moved up four spots in each of the two major national polls. The Cardinals improved to 19th in the AP Top 25 poll and advanced to 20th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll following last week’s win over Missouri State.
CS: “When you have a nationally ranked team, you like to say that you are a junior-senior team. When you have a team you think is going to compete for championships, you would like to have a junior-senior team. We have only nine seniors, so we are still young, still maturing, and still growing. I really do not know what we are right now. If you look at us from week to week we still have a lot of growing up to do.”
- In the 35-7 win over Missouri State, the Cardinals outgained the Bears 475-249 in total yardage. In each of the first two games, the Louisville defense has held its opponents to less than 100 yards rushing.
CS: “I saw improvement on defense and I thought we executed well defensively. If you look at the first three drives by Missouri State, we held them to three three-and-outs. Offensively though, we never got into a rhythm and were never able to take control. I think we finished with 475 yards, but we left another 150 yards on the field.”
- After setting a single game school record for completion percentage in the opener against UK, sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for a career best 344 yards and two touchdowns in the week two win over Missouri State. It was Bridgewater’s first ever 300-yard passing performance.
CS: “No matter how good a football player is, he still has to work on his mechanics, work on his fundamentals, and work on his technique. You never want a player to think that he is a better play than he actually is, which is difficult when you have a player receiving as much publicity as he is. He can manage the game better and work on getting the ball to open receivers. There were a few throws he missed down the field (against MSU). One play he had Eli (Rogers) down the field wide open and another where DeVante Parker was wide open on the post route, so there are still throws that he needs to make.”
- Both Kentucky and Missouri State implemented no-huddle offensive attacks against the Cardinals in the first two weeks. Louisville handled those two well allowing only 21 points combined in the two games. UNC will also use a no-huddle attack this week, though the Tar Heels will not have the same look as the Cardinals’ first two foes.
CS: “They are very different than Kentucky and Missouri State. It is all about tempo and they like to be up on the ball quickly. Their tempo is difficult to practice and we really will not get a feel for until the game. We have to just survive the first quarter where the offense is coming right at us. What they do is throw a lot of bubble screens based on alignment. If our guys are not in position, they will throw it there. But, a lot of their game is throwing it down the field. They use a quick fake here and then throw it down the field because their wide receivers are just so athletic.”