Cards pull together to run over Cats in second half

mmaloney@herald-leader.comSeptember 14, 2013 

If football is a game of adjustments, credit Louisville with making a winning move at halftime.

Leading Kentucky 10-3 at intermission, the No. 7 Cardinals came out and scored two touchdowns and a field goal on their first three possessions of the second half en route to a 27-13 victory.

Louisville was held to 62 yards on 20 run plays in the first half, the longest was an 18-yard scramble by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. But then U of L ran for 180 yards on 21 second-half tries.

"We just told our offensive line that we're going to line up and run right at them," Bridgewater said. "Once you're able to win the line of scrimmage, you're pretty much unstoppable."

U of L's third straight win in the series cut UK's lead to 14-12.

Cardinals Coach Charlie Strong called the first half a tale of two defenses. The fact that his defense was playing well was not enough to make him, uh, pleased.

"I was kind of pissed at half just because I knew we weren't playing our best football," he said. "So I had some really good words for them. I just said when we got the team together '(if) we come together and we start playing and we play as a team we're going to win this football game.'"

The key was to step up the offense while not letting his defense regress.

"Our run-game coordinator did a great job with schemes and stuff," said Dominique Brown, who ran 12 times for 45 yards. "We ran different runs than we did the first half because they came with some different fronts and stuff we weren't prepared for. But the second half, made adjustments. And the offensive line came off the ball. Our lead blockers did a great job as well."

Senorise Perry, who carried 11 times for 100 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns, never doubted.

"The difference was 'just finish,'" Perry said. "We already knew what we could do against them. We just came out and had to burst through the hole faster and stronger than their defense."

Bridgewater, a Heisman Trophy candidate, kept the offense balanced by completing 16 of 28 passes for 250 yards. Included was a second-quarter 13-yard touchdown toss to DeVante Parker.

"Teddy just threw it where he's supposed to, and I just went up and got it," said the 6-foot-3 Parker, who climbed high for an acrobatic grab in the end zone.

"That's what we're accustomed to," Bridgewater said "We call 'em ball fetchers and that's the reason why — just throw it up, elevate and go get it."

The touchdown was the 20th in 27 games for Parker, a junior from Louisville's Ballard High School. He has at least one TD in nine consecutive games, and in 11 of 12 contests.

The Cardinals' defense, which has yet to allow a first-half touchdown through three games, did the rest.

Marcus Smith's fumble recovery led to the first of John Wallace's two field goals.

Then Preston Brown covered a fumble to thwart UK at the U of L 14-yard line in the last minute of the half.

"I think it was great to get a little momentum going back into halftime," Preston Brown said. "It really got us hyped up and ready to go back out there again."

The Cards got a third turnover when Charles Gaines picked off a third-quarter pass on the U of L 2-yard line.

"It's a big game because it's a rival game and there's so much put into it," Strong said. "That's why I tell our players 'all games are big games, but this game's a little different.'"

He said winning a rivalry game on the road showed him the "resiliency" in his team.

"They realize that we're a football team now. 'OK, one phase isn't playing together; let's pick up the other phase.' We came together. You just saw it within this team. No one ever got down on the sideline. They stayed together."

■ U of L is 13-4 on the road since Strong became coach and has won seven of its last eight on the road.

■ The Cards have scored 20 or more points in 19 consecutive games.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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