LOUISVILLE — Saturday's final score — Kentucky 23, Louisville 16 — was tough for Louisville defensive tackle Greg Scruggs to swallow.
A junior, though, he at least will get one more shot at the Wildcats. Not so for his senior teammates, who lost to UK for the fourth year in a row.
"I give it my all for everything in this program and for the seniors. And for them, some of them to not be able to win a game (vs. UK), that hurts my heart," Scruggs said. "It's hard for me to stand and talk to you all upbeat, positive as I am, when there are people in the locker room, sitting in their lockers with towels over their head. I know what they're doing and I know what it means to them."
The first game in the Charlie Strong era, as well as the expanded Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, does not mark a continuation of the losing ways of the last three seasons, though, Scruggs said.
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"This isn't last year's team," he said. "It's different. The mind-set of the people is different. The fight in the people is different. We're just going to use this as a building block."
Said Vic Anderson, who had 32 yards running, 10 receiving and 91 more on a pair of kickoff returns: "We learned that we're a good football team and we've just got to stay strong and keep fighting."
Trailing 20-3 early in the second quarter, the Cardinals regained their composure to make a game of it.
"We just didn't come out and play well in the beginning," Strong said. "Too many big plays and dug ourselves in a hole that we just couldn't get out of. Just talk about execution. That's one thing we always talk about — not giving up the big play and being able to just settle in. And it's just like one bad play led to another."
On offense, the Cardinals found the end zone only once, when Bilal Powell scampered 80 yards down the U of L sideline.
Instead, Chris Philpott got the call to kick three field goals.
"We get in the end zone, get six points more than we get field goals, it's a different game," said quarterback Adam Froman, who completed 14 of 29 passes for 127 yards.
One field goal came after a holding penalty pushed back the Cards from the 5-yard line. A pair of dropped passes in the red zone also hurt.
U of L hung in, though.
"I was just pleased with our overall effort, the way we came out the second half," Strong said. "First half, we got kind of shell-shocked."
Philpott, who earlier matched his career long with a 44-yard field goal and later added a 32-yarder, converted from 27 yards out with 3:16 left in the game to make it a one-score game.
Strong went with a straight kickoff, though, and UK ran out the clock.
"I was going to onside. Then I look up and there's three-something left in the game. I didn't want to give them the ball that close," Strong said. "And I figured that we could go stop them because we had stopped them the last two times ... but we weren't able to get the stop."