University of Louisville

Strong warning to Cards: Dwell on FIU, not UK

LOUISVILLE — Louisville Coach Charlie Strong says his Cardinals aren't good enough to look past an opponent, especially not FIU and Heisman Trophy candidate T.Y. Hilton.

Strong has the Cardinals concentrating on the task at hand with FIU on Friday night despite their biggest rival and the battle for the Governor's Cup looming next week.

"They can't look ahead. We're not good enough to look ahead. There has been no mention at all of Kentucky," Strong said.

Louisville is focused on Hilton, last year's Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.

The senior wide receiver does everything. He's the only player in school history to have caught, thrown, rushed and returned kicks and punts for touchdowns in the same season. His multi-pronged attack led FIU to its first Sun Belt title and bowl appearance last season, racking up more than 2,000 all-purpose yards.

Tampa-based FIU began its "Hilton4Heisman" campaign over the summer, an effort bolstered with the team's 41-16 opening win against North Texas.

Hilton led the nation in the first week with 283 total yards, including seven catches for 132 yards and a touchdown grab. The Panthers jumped out to an early 28-0 lead, which are the most first-quarter points in the school's history. Hilton's second-half action was limited, touching the ball just four times with the game comfortably in hand.

Strong speaks of Hilton in terms of containment, with a more manageable goal of limiting his impact on kickoff and punt returns and his yards after the catch.

Hilton's versatility means it won't just be the corners' responsibility to wrangle the Panthers' playmaker. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has stressed to his entire defense the need to not allow FIU to continue drives.

"He plays quarterback, he plays running back, they have him all over the place," Bedford said. "The biggest thing we've told our guys — know where he is at all times, especially on third down."

Quarterback Wesley Carroll has to get Hilton the football, and Strong credited his ability to "find the playmakers." The senior, a former transfer from Mississippi State who started 13 times in his two seasons for the Bulldogs, is one of 16 returning starters for FIU.

In contrast, Louisville is returning the second most inexperienced team in the country in terms of returning starters. Strong knows he has his hands full.

Seven Cardinals made their first start with 20 making their collegiate debut last week.

FIU Coach Mario Cristobal called Friday's nationally televised game against a young Big East team "a tremendous opportunity for our football program."

Strong said if his team wants to start the season 2-0, it would have to play better than it did in the opener, giving up four turnovers and failing to score in the second half against Murray State.