Louisville looked like a 10-win team, while Joker Phillips has to wonder where Kentucky will find more than four or five wins.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – They are who we thought they were – both teams, the University of Louisville as well as the University of Kentucky.
This Cardinals' football team, the one that overpowered Kentucky, 32-14, Sunday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium Sunday, will win nine, 10 or more games this season.
They're going to advance in the Top 25 polls Monday. When you look at their schedule, you'll notice that their 10 future opponents that played this weekend lost half their games. Ask this question:
Who on this schedule is going to be favored to beat Charlie Strong's team?
The Cardinals have a quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) who throws lasers. They have two running backs (Jeremy Wright, Senorise Perry) who can take a hit and then take a tackler forward for more yards. They have an offensive line that is the most improved unit on the team.
The defense needs work. I didn't expect Kentucky to churn for 373 yards against Louisville. Strong is a defensive guy with a Southeastern Conference pedigree. You can be certain the post-game Cardinals' video sessions will include freeze-frame close-ups of missed tackles and bungled assignments.
"We held them to seven points (actually 14), but we never felt like we had control," Strong said. "They were able to take the ball up and down the field. We were not able to get pressure."
But overall this opening day performance by the Cardinals was confirmation that it is understandable for this team to dream king-sized dreams, especially after FIU (week four opponent) lost to Duke by 20 and Pittsburgh (week seven opponent) lost to Youngstown State by two touchdowns.
Those are road games that no longer look as daunting as they appeared a week ago.
"Just seeing a Big East team beat an SEC opponent speaks volumes," Strong said.
The only thing king-sized around this Kentucky team is the growing consternation that surrounds the Wildcats. How many games can they win? How many fans will keep coming to Commonwealth Stadium?
If you expected the Wildcats to win five games this season, that appears to be the ceiling.
The Wildcats' offense moved the football with more energy and precision than they showed in 2011. Two fumbles crushed any upset ideas that Kentucky had. But the defense made the Cardinals' offense look as dynamic as the high-flying Oregon Ducks. Kentucky did not force a Louisville punt until the final minute of the first half.
The Cardinals were averaging an improbable nine yards per offensive snap for most of the first half. Slow down and let that statistic sink in: Nine yards per snap.
Late in the third quarter, when Strong sent Will Stein, a senior reserve, into the game to replace the unflappable Bridgewater, it certainly seemed that the U of L coach was doing a solid for his pal, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips.
It was Strong, not Rick Minter's defense, that finally stopped the Louisville offense, which finished the game averaging 6.5 yards per offensive play, three touchdown drives of 85 yards or longer and a passing completion percentage (22 of 26) of 84.6 percent.
It is always risky to dwell on one play during a football game that includes 142 offensive snaps. But if you were going to pick one play, it had to be this one:
Louisville's first offensive series began on the Cardinals' one-yard line. Louisville gained one yard on first down. They gained nothing on second down. One more stop and Kentucky gets the football in tremendous field position.
Didn't happen. Bridgewater threw a 23-yard strike to Damian Copeland. The Cards marched 99 yards for a touchdown. Then they rolled 85 yards for their next touchdown. Then they thundered 93 yards for their next touchdown.
"It's demoralizing and unacceptable when a team can do that, particularly running the ball," Minter said. "For the most part it was running the ball down our throats. That's the most intimidating thing you can do to a defense is run it down their throat when they can't stop it."
There was no longer any doubt about which was the better team. It's safe to believe big things are going to happen with this Louisville team this season. And it's just as reasonable to worry about where Kentucky is going to find more than four or five victories.
Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
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