September 2, 2012; Louisville, KY USA; The Louisville Cardinals mascot performs before the first half of play against the Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinals Stadium. Louisville defeated Kentucky 32-14. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-US PRESSWIRE
Louisville fans finally got to enjoy seeing Louisville play its best football at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. After two years of inexplicably playing its best football on the road, while dropping games to the lines of FIU and Marshall at home, Charlie Strong's Cardinals physically dominated their in-state rivals and made a statement in doing so. Here are a few scattered thoughts from yesterday's game.
The development and maturation of Teddy Bridgewater is remarkable. A year ago, Bridgewater was a skinny, nervous freshman that, even having enrolled early, looked flustered in the season opener, throwing one pass...that was intercepted by Murray State. A calendar year later, Bridgewater is pushing 200 pounds, stands coolly in the pocket, and dissected Kentucky. Bridgewater completed 19 of 21 passes, one was a slightly underthrown pass that was almost caught and the other was a deliberate throw away to avoid a sack. He was playing just his 14th college football game, but he's already beginning to get comparisons to some of the great Louisville quarterbacks.
For all of the talk of picking a running back to be the primary ball-carrier, Louisville still maintained a pretty even rotation of running backs between Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry. I was pleasantly surprised at the success Louisville had running the ball. I believed that Kentucky's defensive line was SEC-sized and that the points and yards were to be had through the air. For it to be such a dominant game on the ground as well, either says a lot of good things about the Louisville offensive line, bad things about the Kentucky defensive line, or both.
If you want to know how dominant the Louisville running game was, the Cardinals had two 100-yard rushers in Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry. Dominique Brown did not play due to a lingering issue with his knee but he should be back this week. Louisville finished the game with 18 rushing attempts that went for five yards or more.
In 2010, Charlie Strong's first game at Louisville, Kentucky rushed for 230 yards. In the two games against Kentucky since, the Wildcats have only amassed 128 yards rushing. They had 35 yards last year and just 93 yards in yesterday's game. Conversely, Louisville has rushed for 400 yards in the Cardinals' two wins in 2011 and 2012.
Louisville did seem ill-prepared for the Kentucky offense that was first focused on being up tempo and quick, three step throws. There were a few adjustments in the second half that helped slow it down some, but the plan to work underneath and have all quick throws to negate the blitz worked pretty well for Kentucky. Louisville will face a nearly identical offense against North Carolina who happens to have a better quarterback and, if healthy, one of the nation's best running backs.
Will Stein stood up and threw a pass for an early two point conversion to give Louisville an 8-0 lead. Strong has not been shy about fake punts, onside kicks, going for it on 4th down, and more in his short time at Louisville and he's never let the results deter him. Credit Joker Phillips for also coaching all out, opting to go for it on 4th down, fake a punt, and open the second half with an onside kick.
There might be some who are still surprised that Louisville has won back to back games against Kentucky after the Wildcats won four in a row from 2007-2010. But, even in their four wins, the Wildcats hardly dominated Louisville. In 2007, it took a late touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson to win the game. In 2008, Kentucky won 27-2 but the game was 10-2 in the fourth quarter and the total yardage for the game was a paltry 210-205. In 2009, a Louisville team that finished the year 4-8, outgained Kentucky and were it not for a late punt return fumble, likely would have salted the clock away and won that game as well. So, while Kentucky was winning the games, they were hardly dominating Louisville on the field, even against some of the worst Louisville teams of recent memory.
This was the sixth time since 1999 that Louisville has defeated Kentucky by 16 points or more. The average margin of Louisville's wins over Kentucky in that stretch has been 18.5.
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