Cards' win makes a statement

Strong asks for program-changing win, then gets it

mmaloney@herald-leader.comSeptember 18, 2011 

Louisville came away with more than a rivalry victory Saturday night.

According to Coach Charlie Strong, the Cardinals made a statement with their 24-17 road triumph over Kentucky.

"This is a tremendous team victory ... and we said earlier to our team that we needed to have a statement game," Strong said.

The U of L coach talked about seeing students on campus attired in UK gear. Not acceptable to him, he says it's up to the Cards to change that type of following.

"We talk to our guys all the time about changing the culture of this program," he said. "We've been down for three years. Last year we had a (better) year, and you see us bounce back. But we need a statement game to change the culture."

U of L snapped a four-game losing streak in the in-state rivalry, winning for the first time since 2006. The win was U of L's first in the modern rivalry in a game that did not open a season.

Early in the week, Strong said he didn't know if his team could play with Kentucky. The Wildcats had much more experience, plus the winning tradition in the series.

By Thursday, he was singing a different tune, telling his players "if we go play, we're the better football team."

Yes, they were.

U of L outgained the Cats 327 yards to 290, holding UK to 35 rushing yards.

The Cards won even though starting quarterback Will Stein left the game early in the second quarter because of a shoulder injury.

Other than a handful of "Wild Card" snaps to running quarterback Dominique Brown, and a couple of last-minute kneel-downs by Stein, true freshman Teddy Bridgewater took the controls.

Bridgewater finished 10-for-18, good for 106 yards and a pair of 25-yard touchdown passes — to DeVante Parker and Josh Bellamy.

"I wasn't nervous at all," Bridgewater said. "Because all week we practice two quarterbacks. We have a two-quarterback system, so any given moment you just have to be prepared to go in."

In each of the Cardinals' first two games, Bridgewater played a series.

"You learn from your mistakes," he said. "You learn from those two series."

Game MVP Dexter Heyman led the U of L defense with 12 tackles, including two for losses. Heyman, a senior linebacker, has a tackle for a loss in his last seven games, dating to last season. He also forced a first-quarter fumble, which teammate Andrew Johnson recovered.

Adrian Bushell, earning his first career start at cornerback, had 11 tackles.

Roy Philon, a sophomore out of Bryan Station, didn't enter the game until the second quarter. He promptly dropped UK quarterback Morgan Newton for a 5-yard loss. Two plays later, Philon sacked Newton for a 7-yard loss.

"I knew I was going to play. I just didn't know when," he said. "I knew when I did go in to play that I was going to go in and play — handle business."

Philon added an 11-yard sack in the fourth quarter, finishing with four tackles.

"Our coach tells us to visualize," said Philon, a 6-foot-3, 272-pound tackle. "I did a lot of visualizing, and (this game) is not really a surprise to me because I worked hard in practice. If you work hard, the results come."

■ U of L won in Commonwealth Stadium for the first time since Sept. 4, 2005, a 31-24 game. ... This is the fourth game since Vance Bedford became defensive coordinator that the Cards have had five or more sacks in a game. They got to Newton six times for 48 yards in losses.

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