Press Conference Audio from CardsTV: Head Coach Charlie Strong
Following his team’s first loss of the season last weekend and entering the 19th-ranked Cardinals’ second and final bye week of the season this weekend, head coach Charlie Strong met with reporters on Monday at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex for his weekly press conference. No. 19 Louisville, which dropped to 9-1 overall and 4-1 in BIG EAST Conference games, had its most disappointing performance of the season in the 45-26 loss to the Orange, which halted the program’s best start to a season. Despite the loss, the Cardinals remain in control of their own fate in the BIG EAST Conference race and a BCS bowl berth. With wins in the final two games of the regular season at home against Connecticut (Nov. 24) and on the road at Rutgers (Nov. 29), Louisville will win its second straight league title and represent the BIG EAST in a BCS bowl for the second time in school history.
“Our open week comes at the right time,” Strong said. “For our players, they just need to rest mentally and physically. This has been a special season. Our players have made an unbelievable run. The bigger goal is still to be met. The important thing is for us not to let one setback turn to frustration, excuse-making, lack of responsibility and poor individual habits. Always look at what we have left. Never look back at what we have lost. A losing team looks for excuses. A championship team looks for solutions. Some losses are only deposits for a later victory. We will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. Today, I am going to meet with them and go over the tape from Saturday’s game. Come back on Sunday to get ready for Connecticut. We know this. We have a week with Connecticut and then we have a short week coming up with Rutgers. We have 10 days to go plan. We (coaching staff) are going to break down Rutgers this week and get that game behind us. Then, we are going to get prepared for Connecticut later on in the week.”
Tackling, Gap Control Contribute to Defensive Breakdown at Syracuse
The Louisville defense had its worst outing of the season in the loss to the Orange allowing a season-high 524 yards of total offense to the host team. Syracuse used a balanced attack in the win rushing for 278 yards and throwing for 246 yards. Knowing the Orange entered the game as the top offense in the BIG EAST statistically, the Cardinals were expecting a big challenge from a talented offensive unit. However, mistakes from the Cardinals defensively made it even easier for Syracuse to tally a season-high in points in the win.
“The concern on defense is tackling and just gap control,” Strong explained. “Just looking at Saturday’s game, it was a player out of his gap. Then, once the ball breaks the line of scrimmage, get the guy on the ground. We didn’t do that. We didn’t get the guy down. If you look at the one throw to (Alec) Lemon, he catches the ball and then he’s able to cut back on the free safety for a touchdown. The running back (Prince-Tyson Gulley) comes out of there for 55 yards. The safety hit him and he breaks through the tackle for a touchdown. Then, we give up another big, long run. It’s all about tackling. It’s about gap control. It’s about what can be fixed. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed. It’s all about guys staying in their gaps, getting off of blocks and hitting blocks. Then, getting their ball carrier on the ground.”
Miscues in the Dome Will Prepare Cardinals for the Next Chance
The Cardinals entered last week’s game at Syracuse as one of just six remaining unbeaten teams in the nation. With only three games left to be played, Louisville hoped to move one step closer to another BIG EAST title and maintain hopes of a perfect season. Expecting a hostile road environment and a motivated opponent desperate for a win on Senior Day, Strong compared the matchup to a championship game throughout the week, which he says may have been too much for his young group of Cardinals to handle at this point in the season.
“I told them, ‘Guys, We go to Syracuse and we got our butt kicked. Still though, you have to beat Rutgers to go win it,'” said Strong. “So, your goal is still there. It’s all about taking care of Connecticut. Let’s not worry about Rutgers. When I think about it, maybe it’s more my fault of setting the stage a little higher than what it should have been set. I should have just approached this game like any other game. I kept saying championship game, this is the game we have to go win. This is the game. Maybe our players weren’t really ready for that at that particular time. If you look at the youth of this football team, we haven’t been placed in that position. I think about programs that are consistent year in and year out, where three years from now, Nacho (Abraham) Garcia will be prepared for that moment. When we walk into somewhere 9-0, then he’ll say, ‘Guys, this is what happened to us two years ago, so we have to be prepared for this moment.’ And the preparation was there.”
Perry’s Season Ends Early with Knee Injury at Syracuse
The most disappointing news to come from Strong’s press conference on Monday was the announcement that junior running back Senorise Perry suffered a torn ACL in the loss at Syracuse and will miss the rest of the season. Entering last week’s game, Perry was the Cardinals’ leading rusher with 703 yards (78.1 yard per game and 5.2 yards per carry) to go with a team-high 11 touchdowns. Having rushed for more than 100 yards three times this season, Perry had only two carries for two yards against the Orange before suffering the right knee injury during the Cardinals’ opening series of the game.
“He didn’t take it very well,” Strong said. “Any time you’re having a season he’s having and you go down with an injury, it hurts. Our doctors are going to meet today and just find out what exactly the plan we’re going to have for him. I think we will be OK running the football. You look at the running backs and you know Senorise was a big-time part of our running game. Now with Jeremy Wright, he’s going to have to shoulder more of the load. Now with Corvin coming in, you look at the one screen pass we threw out there to him. He went down the sideline for 53 yards. He’s very talented. You miss Senorise just because he’s played so much. Now you have to bring in a guy who hasn’t played much at all.”